Sunday, 1 March 2009

Signals and noise 3

An end to signals and noise on withdrawal from Iraq? In government, Obama announces a withdrawal policy that splits the difference between his campaign promise and the Status Of Forces Agreement negotiated between the previous administration and the sovereign government of Iraq. 

Note the details, including that most major moves of troops out of the country won’t occur until after Iraq’s national elections in December, and that even after the new 19 month target for withdrawal of combat troops passes, 50,000 rare specimens of non-combat troops will remain in Iraq into 2011.

A couple of reactions in blogland: Andrew Sullivan gets his knickers in a complete twist, while Abu Muqawama hails “the triumph of the center”:
Because as Tom Ricks and others have noted, the Bush Administration faced up to reality in Iraq following the 2006 midterms, appointing a new team in Baghdad, authorizing the surge, and replacing some of the old crew at the NSC with a new team led by LTG Douglas Lute. So by 2008, a kind of middle-of-the-road consensus had developed in Iraq between centrists on either side of the U.S. political divide. Democrats like Colin suddenly had a lot in common ideologically with both commanders on the ground and policy-makers in the White House.

Yesterday’s speech by that Kenyan feller with the funny name who apparently now runs things around here was evidence of the triumph of the center on Iraq. Harry Reid is not going to be happy. Nancy Pelosi is not going to be happy. And some on the right will continue to be frustrated, not understanding that it is now Iraqis - not Americans - who hold the keys to that country's future.

But as the Financial Times - my favorite newspaper - argued today, it is indeed Iraqis who control the future of that country. Perhaps one of the reasons we counter-insurgents have shifted focus away from Iraq and toward Afghanistan is because we understand that even the best counter-insurgency strategy can only set the conditions for political reconciliation in third-party interventions such as Iraq and Afghanistan. What the Iraqis do from here on out matters more than anything said or done in Washington. And that, in the end, is how it damn well should be.


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