Out by '08?

The Washington Post:

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis, setting the first goal for a major drawdown of U.S. forces, sources familiar with the proposal said yesterday.

The commission plan would shift the U.S. mission in Iraq to a secondary role as the fragile Baghdad government and its security forces take the lead in fighting a Sunni insurgency and trying to halt sectarian violence. As part of major changes in the U.S. presence, sources said, the plan recommends embedding U.S. soldiers directly in Iraqi security units starting as early as next month to improve leadership and effectiveness.

The call to pull out combat brigades by early 2008 would be more a conditional goal than a firm timetable, predicated on the assumption that circumstances on the ground would permit it, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the commission's report will not be released until next week. [Emphasis mine.]
The Baker Commission is just a dog and pony show. Any possibility of real change coming out of it's report is gone.

This is just a re-worded version of 'We'll stand down when the Iraqis stand up.' And we've seen exactly how well that's worked so far. One of the Post's unnamed sources gave this quote, which blew my mind:
"It's really about transitioning from a combat to a support role, and basically making very clear that this is no longer an open-ended commitment and we're going to get this done whether the Iraqis like it or not," said one of the sources. "Everybody understands that we're at the end of the road here."
Haven't we been trying to move from a 'combat role' to a 'support role' for months now? And if we're 'making it very clear' that we're not staying forever, how in hell are we supposed to 'get this done whether the Iraqis like it or not?' Really. If we're giving them the lead and telling them that this isn't an indefinite deployment, how are we going to force two sides of a civil war to create a viable state with a unity government when they've shown that they have no interest in sharing oil wealth, political power, or security responsibilities?

At this point, the best that the United States can hope for is to keep troops on the ground long enough to set up three separate nations (or, if you're feeling lucky, a very loose confederation) without seeing the civil war escalate.

Yes, this solution is bad for everybody. The Turks won't like a newly formed 'Kurdistan' on their border. Neither will the Iranians. America suffers a huge strategic defeat as Iran gains a satellite nation and emerges as the regional power in the Middle East. All this to say nothing of the innocent Iraqis.

* * * * *

Republicans are quick to criticize Democrats for not having a plan for Iraq. That's because there can't be a plan for Iraq. It's like saying 'You don't have a plan for keeping the car in one piece after you've already driven it off the cliff.' It doesn't matter what you do, it's gonna be a disaster when it hits the ground. That's why you shouldn't have driven the car off the cliff in the first place.

Colin Powell's 'Pottery Barn Rule' comes back to get all of us in the end.

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