If The Iraqis Want To Set Up A TimeTable, So Be It

It’s probably a mistake to set up a timetable for the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq because it would give the enemy the ability to simply lay back and wait for us to leave. That’s why wars aren’t fought on timetables.

However, if the Iraqis insist on it, so be it.

They’re not an American colony or puppet state. To the contrary, we set them up as a free and sovereign country and one of the things that free and sovereign countries get to do is choose whether they want foreign troops on their soil.

If the legitimate, democratic government of Iraq wants to agree to timetables for US troops to leave the country — and it appears that they do — then we should do our best to cooperate with them.*

The truth is that America is not going to determine whether Iraq remains a free democratic country. Yes, we do have a duty to give the Iraqis every opportunity to succeed and because of George Bush’s leadership, we have hung in there and done the right thing so far.

But ultimately, even though we gave the Iraqis their freedom, it’s going to be up to them to keep or lose it long term. The decision, right or wrong, to set up timetables is part of that process. Hopefully, they won’t regret that decision down the road.

* It wouldn’t surprise me if it turns out that the motivation behind this is to keep US troops in the country longer, as opposed to pushing us out the door quicker. Obama’s “we’re out in 16 months no matter what” timetable for defeat may be scaring the hell out of them.

If that is what the Iraqis are thinking, they have a problem, because Bush really can’t tie the hands of the next President on this issue. Whatever agreement he may make goes out the window on this issue if the next President disagrees with it.

Update #1: Here’s more info on the “timetable.”

“Any agreement would not have any hard timetables for withdrawal, but could include the desire by the U.S. and Iraq to withdraw troops based on conditions on the ground,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

“I know that Prime Minister al-Maliki has said that he doesn’t want a precipitous withdrawal because of the security consequences,” Johndroe said in Toyako, Japan, where President Bush is attending the G-8 summit.

Al-Maliki said in a meeting with Arab diplomats in Abu Dhabi that his country also has proposed a short-term interim memorandum of agreement rather than the more formal status of forces agreement the two sides have been negotiating.

The memorandum “now on the table” includes a formula for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, he said.”

What’s being described isn’t even really a timetable per se, it’s just a more formalized way of saying “As they stand up, we stand down” based on the conditions on the ground. It has very little to do with the Obama formula for defeat that says, we don’t care what happens, we’re just going to tuck our tails between our legs and run even if the people who stood shoulder to shoulder with us are cut down in the streets as a result.

Now, what you just read seems to conflict with the latest story from the AFP, which again seems to be talking about a hard date for withdrawal,

The United States on Tuesday rejected a demand from Iraq for a specific date for pullout of US-led foreign troops from the country, saying any withdrawal will be based on conditions on the ground.

“The US government and the government of Iraq are in agreement that we, the US government, we want to withdraw, we will withdraw. However, that decision will be conditions-based,” State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said.

Iraq said on Tuesday it will reject any security pact with the United States unless it sets a date for the pullout of US-led troops.

“We will not accept any memorandum of understanding if it does not give a specific date for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops,” national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie told reporters in the holy city of Najaf.

Since our presence in Iraq is going to outlast Bush’s presidency, he shouldn’t try to bind the hands of the next President by setting a hard date for withdrawal. However, Iraq is either a sovereign nation or it’s not. If it is a sovereign nation — and we’ve certainly been saying that it is — and they want a hard date for withdrawal, then the next President should give it to them.

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