Rants and Raves

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sixteen months sounds about right

Two things happened regarding Iraq recently, one the media ignored, the other they zeroed in on like a laser.

I won't insult your intelligence by pointing out which is which.

Last night we saw on the news that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki endorsed Barack Obama, and thinks his plan (if that's still his plan) to withdraw American forces over 16 months from the date of his taking office is a great one.

When we saw that, my wife remarked, "That does it. Obama wins."

The gentelmen of the press must have been out for a coffee though, because they missed the last story, that provinces nine and 10 of Iraq's 18 had just been handed over to Iraqi forces.

The conclusion seems inescapable, Al Maliki would like the U.S. to leave because he doesn't need us anymore. Or at least, he doesn't figure he'll need us by 16 months after the election.

This confirms what independent correspondent Michael Yon has cautiously said, that all indications show the war is about won - and the mopping up can be handled by the Iraqis themselves.

Being an optimist by nature, I always try to temper it with the Pessimistic Postulate: It's easier for things to get worse than to get better. (A specific application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.)

So what's the case for optimism?

Because I don't believe Al Maliki wants to die for one.

If he didn't think his side would handle the rest of the job, he'd be signing his own death warrant by kicking the U.S. out.

For another, he has to make the kill on Al Queda in Iraq himself, to settle Arab conceptions of honor.

Arab hell, it's the same reason Charles Du Gaulle demanded the Allies let the miniscule Free French forces be first into Paris.

Al Maliki can dismiss American forces with a "Thanks for the help, we'll take it from here," and be the only Arab leader who can address the mighty American state as an equal, rather than a resentful supplicant or petroleum blackmailer.

And, when the only legitimately elected government in the Arab world (I know Egypt and Lebanon have elections, but come on...) says, "Please leave now" - and we do, what does that say to the Arab street?

Don't misunderstand me, I still think it could go horribly wrong. But if we hand it over to them, and it does, then it'll be their screwup not ours.


  • At 11:47 AM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    I think this is unfortunate political posturing. Maliki has his own upcoming election to contend with. Being the powerful nationalist plays well in the polls, especially when your biggest political opponent is a firebrand cleric with an influential family name, a large militia, a nationalist image, and a significant group of proxies who make up your political bloc and when every accidental killing by an American airstrike gets 50 times the media coverage of a deliberate mass casualty terrorist attack by Shia extremists or al-Qaeda affiliated nutbars.

    I do not doubt for one moment that Maliki is saying one thing to the cameras and another in closed meetings with MNF-I. Unfortunately, it appears that his political advisors did not coordinate very well with the President's political advisors.

    I think that you would agree, given your experience in the Arab world, that what they say versus what they mean and what they do are three (or more) different things, with often little correlation between them.

  • At 4:32 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    That was indeed my impression! They make Japanese look positively blunt.

    So what's your opinion about the situation on the ground?

    My notion was Maliki has to be the one to deliver the coup de grace - but if the beast ain't down yet...

  • At 9:14 AM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    I think GEN Petraeus gave the best assessment when he stated that progress is significant, fragile, and reversible. But with troop reductions on the horizon, I think it is getting less fragile. The ISF has come a long way. When I started training IA Soldiers in 2005, we were happy if they just showed up at the right place at the right time, did not lose their weapons, actually wore their helmets and body armor, and if 30% didn't desert every week. Now they're conducting large scale operations all over the country kicking AQI and JAM in the nuts.

  • At 8:01 PM, Blogger Ted said…

    Right on, man.

  • At 5:01 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    I'm going to do something I should have done a while back and recommend an essay by blogger Bill Whittle. Actually I'll recommend all of them, but in particular, 'Forty Second Boyd and the Big Picture' here:



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