The Long War Journal provides some much-needed context and clarity for the on-going negotiations between the US and Iraqi governments regarding the current and future status of Coalition Forces in Iraq. Rather than the typically histrionic treatment of these negotiations in the American press, what emerges is a deliberate, staged plan for the withdrawal of American combat forces which keeps pace with the Iraqi military's ability to assume an adequate level of autonomy in the internal and external defense of the Iraqi State.
As I have stated previously, it is not at all unexpected that Nouri al Maliki should act vigorously to dispel any perception of his government as a mere arm of Washington. It is, after all, an election year in Iraq as well. It is fitting and proper for Maliki to stand forth as a tough negotiator in the interests of Iraqi sovereignty, and to advocate for the interests of his constituents. We should expect no less of our own elected officials. If Maliki chooses cannily to portray his advocacy for a withdrawal timetable of US forces as being the result of his standing up to the stubborn Americans (while fully cognizant of the fact that such a plan is already largely in keeping with the American plan itself), then we should not begrudge him his intelligent reading of the mood among his people. After all, the most effective leaders have always been those who could position themselves at the vanguard of a movement which is already in progress.
It is in the interests of the Iraqi people for the Maliki government to grant US forces the room they need to accomplish their mission...the end stage of which is the transfer of full sovereign control to Iraqi security forces. If a bit of gamesmanship is what is required to reach that goal, then that merely means that Maliki is doing his job with style as well as substance.
The reader is encouraged to keep this in mind as the inevitable posturing in the election year wrangling within this nation seeks to make hay with the pronouncements coming out of Baghdad. Democrats will doubtless crow about how Maliki's negotiations vindicate their own ceaseless bleatings for fixed timetables for retreat (blithely glossing over the brilliant adaptation of strategy and tactics which created the conditions for an honorable and successful withdrawal [AKA victory], and which they initially opposed). Bear in mind that these same Democrats were advocating for withdrawal at a time when their plan would have unquestionably resulted in the collapse of the fledgling Iraqi experiment, and all manner of deadly headaches thereafter.
Voters in this high-stakes election should strive to look more deeply into the politics of Iraq and the US, and to decide which candidate represents their real interests.