Sixteen months sounds about right
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.