Well, Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki is quoted as saying that he wants an agreement with the United States that includes a firm timetable for the withdrawal of our troops. President Bush, apparently, disagrees with that idea. So do I. The particulars are to be worked out — presumably, in private.
That’s just fine with me. Because that is how things are done between allies.
Maliki’s position (which I am taking at face value — and that might be a mistake, as the article is sourced to the Associated Press) is that once the agreement is finalized and certain milestones ttowards Iraq’s security and independence are reached.
That, to me, is the key part.
I have always argued that the withdrawal of US combat forces should be based not on a calendar, but on landmarks. For the US to announce a specific schedule for withdrawal would give the terrorists a new way of winning — all they have to do is hunker down and survive, and they would win by default. I always said that our withdrawal should be based on events. Or, as President Bush put it, “we will stand down as the Iraqis stand up.”
This idea of a timetable linked to milestones seems a fair compromise. Currently, things are going fairly well in Iraq (last week, no Americans were killed in combat there, I heard), no thanks to the defeatists in Congress and the media and the Nutroots. Putting together concrete plans that go beyond the current situation and look ahead to a truly independent Iraq is a very good thing.
I fully expect that the United States will have troops in Iraq for some time to come, quite possibly indefinitely. It is in our strategic interests to keep a sizable military presence in the Middle East, much like it was good for us to keep hefty forces in Europe during the Cold War.
Overall, having US troops stationed in your country is a good thing. They tend to boost both the economy and security of the nation — just ask Germany, Japan, Korea, or England.
And if our hosts happen to change their minds, we are quite obliging about leaving without any fuss — talk to the Philippines or Saudi Arabia about that one.