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(Part one is here - but this will work as a stand-alone, too.)
SecDef? Current odds-on: Robert Gates.
I suspect he'll get to offer a private yea or nay to that question before anything more is heard. And I doubt that if the answer is "yes" that it's a four year yes.
At Abu M: Count the COINdinistas? That argument might be a bit too "inside baseball" for many, and Barack Obama may be among them. (That's not a slur, it's an important issue but it's also a bit "in the weeds").
Talking point buried in a WaPo story:
The White House will hold an economic summit on Nov. 15 that 20 world leaders will attend; Obama, who called for such a meeting in September, has been invited to participate. His advisers are also debating whether to ask Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to stay on, to allow planning for a withdrawal from Iraq to begin as soon as possible. A U.N. conference on global warming will be held in Poland in December, an ideal stage for Obama, or a high-profile surrogate such as former vice president Al Gore, to declare that the era of Bush energy policies are over."Planning for a withdrawal from Iraq" has been ongoing, of course - so it's too late for it "to begin as soon as possible". But that sort of phrasing might placate Obama voters who bought in to a pledge to "end the war."
Nick Gillespie is probably right: "And here's a Canadian dollar that says that Obama's withdrawal plan from Iraq is precisely the one recommended by Gen. Petraeus."
The correct phrasing, however, is that General Petraeus will oversee the withdrawal from Iraq as ordered by President Obama.
Speaking of phrasing: "Many Iraqi officials are now calling the status-of-forces accord, or SOFA, "the withdrawal agreement," possibly as a way of marketing it to a wary public." That's as good as any description - because "The accord, which calls for complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2011, has been the subject of tense negotiations for the past seven months." Although throughout that period American media have worked very hard to keep Americans ignorant of the proceedings. But once president-elect Obama gives a green light to the effort, they can start calling it the withdrawal agreement too. (And that's why keeping Gates is critical. Switching managers at this point could delay implementation. Ooops - I mean delay "planning for a withdrawal from Iraq to begin as soon as possible".)
The SOFA could still fail to pass. That wouldn't be a complete disaster for President-elect Obama, but it would delay Iraq withdrawal and deny him an opportunity to deflect criticism. (That second point might not matter, President Bush can be blamed for the failure of the SOFA or its passage.) For instance, if this is true "The accord, ...calls for complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2011" President Obama will be forced to veer away from his pledge to leave troops in Iraq - a promise many of his supporters are likely unaware of.
(Side note - this: "Obama and Biden also believe that any security accord must be subject to Congressional approval. It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval—yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress." might not be so important any more, though a pro forma submission might be "doable". Regardless, SOFA developments will be "the story" from Iraq in the coming weeks. Stay tuned...)
Back to November, 2006:
...as individuals shift their positions on Iraq (centrist Dems, Repubs, and Independents seek common ground while extremists and "party uber alles" types on both sides move to the fringes) I predict the media will pander to the minority - those extremists, who will make great headlines.In hindsight, I believe the minority might actually have been those of us who were working to fix Iraq while the majority stuck to their guns on those battle cries. But that impression might be due to the media pandering to the loudest of the loud - so I acknowledge the possibility of a "silent majority".
You'll be able to identify the extremes - one side will call for "troops home now" while on the other side "don't listen to Democrats - they want the troops home now!" will rally the faithful.
The rest of us will work to "fix" Iraq.
Whatever the case, Republicans flat out missed the shift - the moment they became wrong. Fast forward to summer, 2008:
But the basis for those withdrawal demands - the war is lost, the surge has failed, etc. - have been consistently wrong.In fairness, there was no "moment" they became wrong - it was a process.
In fact, one might argue that those who made them have been like a stopped clock. But here's the odd thing about stopped clocks - they're on the whole useless but right twice a day. And when that time comes the argument that they are still wrong is foolish. But Republicans are in danger of making that argument by allowing themselves to be backed into a position that a drawdown in Iraq must be opposed if for no other reason than because the Democrats favor it.
Early in my 2007 Iraq tour Politico published an interview with me on politics and war:
...those at one end of a spectrum want to ignore it, and those at the opposite want it to be something it isn't. Both groups wish it would go away. As a guy just interested in presenting facts, I believe my efforts are less and less appealing to the average American every day."A few months later - somewhat to my own surprise - I explained how we'd won the war, and for months after that one milblogger after another assured America it was over. (There's a compilation here.) By September of this year commenters were demanding I delete posts from this blog that dared to point out how woefully uninformed Republicans were on Iraq. It was an odd sort of "wrong", to be sure (I'm not impressed when I hear people insist we're winning the war we won last year) but the stopped clock was right and Republicans were in denial that their own steadfast commitment to victory had helped lead to exactly that.
Based on comments and links from other blogs, I suspect my commitment to victory in the war on terror (to the point that I'm actually participating in it when I could have retired to a safer life) and annoyance with those who oppose that goal have a lot of die-hard Democrats assuming I'm a Republican, and perhaps an increasing number of Republicans avoiding my site in their desperate search for other things to talk about. Those who stick around for the next months are in for facts from the ground."
Since September, the U.S. military has announced that American deaths in Iraq reached a "war time low", two more provinces have been handed over to Iraqi control, and a Brigade currently in Baghdad will come home early. Meanwhile, negotiations on the Status of Forces Agreement go on.
Negotiations Joe Biden described thusly:
Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, speaking at a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday, October 22, said, "finally after six years, George Bush is now backing the plan that Barack Obama suggested, which is to set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq and turn over responsibility to the Iraqis. That's the agreement we're negotiating now."Heh.
So what next for Iraq? The answer to that question will be much more political than military (and that's good news for all), and the Iraqis have more of a say in that than what supporters of any American politician would like to believe. History is in motion, current trends are positive, and there's really no reason to dam the flow. Regardless of what you may hear to the contrary, President Obama has inherited a golden opportunity to take credit for all that is right in Iraq for the next several years, and deflect all blame for what's not. At some point he - unlike Republicans - might even chose to declare "victory" there. (Americans love a winner, after all.)
But that's his call to make. Republicans have lost the opportunity to choose the words to be used to describe the process for the next couple of years. For now the approved phrases are "end the war" and "allow planning for a withdrawal from Iraq to begin as soon as possible".
Which brings us (and certainly brings those troops leaving Iraq) to Afghanistan. Part three is here.