PM Maliki announced agreement on a security pact with the United States to end any foreign military presence in Iraq by the end of 2011. This is excellent news no matter which side of the Iraq divide you consider yourself to be on. Excellent because the Iraqis now consider themselves ready to confront their own challenges with no outside assistance. What remains to be seen, however, is whether their confidence can be supported by the "realities on the ground" that President Bush and General Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Odierno routinely warn us about.
The "official" US position is that the agreement is not completed, but it seems imminent that a final deal will be reached and signed and announced. When that comes, Maliki will likely reap huge political rewards in Baghdad... and Americans can finally take Iraq, the political tug-of-war toy, OFF of the Election '08 debate podium. It will come up to be sure, but a withdrawal agreement can NOT be claimed as a victory by either side of the aisle in Washington-they've both screwed the issue up so bad over the last three years that NEITHER side of the 2 contradicting war agendas can claim victory.
The Left has changed its position on WHY they want US Troops out of Iraq at least half a dozen times (I am being very generous), while in every instance suggesting we need to be spending that money here at home. The Right, to their credit, has consistently held that leaving Iraq before undeniable victory would have disastrous long-term consequences for both American AND Iraq...yet they, too, have changed positions on why that mattered to us nearly as many times.
What seems most indicative of the conflict in Iraq fought here on American soil up on Capitol Hill can be found in reading the news "headlines" and comparing them with the actual words coming out of PM Maliki's mouth. The announcements refer to security agreements which, in part, include reduced American presence on the ground in cities around Iraq. The President, and those of us that support staying at Iraq's side until they can stand up on their own, has repeatedly said we will "stand down when Iraq is ready to step up." We appear to be reaching such a point in Iraq's recovery.
The Left, of course, has stuck with "exit strategy", "withdrawal timetables," and "if we leave, they'll be MADE to fend for themselves."
Whatever the slogan, we are winding down in Iraq. We are doing so just at a time when Congressional approval remains at historical lows. And this is timed, intentionally or otherwise, around a US Presidential election cycle...and a looming election cycle in Iraq.
I remain moderately encouraged by this news, but nonetheless suspicious of the true motivations for Maliki's Government to tell their enemies when they will no longer have anyone watching their backs. And I will continue to pray for the Iraqi people who still, after all these years, just want to be left alone to live in peace and take care of themselves and their families...and get ON with their lives without having to live in fear of the next car bomb or explosive vest-wearing lunatic around the next corner.
Whatever genuine motivations might be at play here, our brave Men and Women will be home soon, and we can all thank God for that...and we damn sure better thank THEM when they get here.