Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Clearing a Path for The One

Via Hot Air, I encountered this WaPo editorial on the implications of the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which was recently ratified by the Iraqi Cabinet, prior to being turned over to the Parliament next week. The main thrust of the editorial is the degree to which this agreement, if passed by Parliament (as is generally expected), would give cover to the incoming Obama Administration to adhere in general terms to its pledge to withdraw American troops from Iraq along a relatively fixed timetable, while allowing it a measure of flexibility as to the details.

The main objection to such timetables all along has been the degree to which they would broadcast a time horizon to the very active and unreliably opposed agents of chaos in the fledgling Nation of Iraq. They would only need wait us out before swarming on the unprotected and unready Iraqi military and police, with catastrophic effects.

That situation has now changed. AQI is smashed, but for scattered mayhem and a stubborn but sputtering stand in and around Mosul. Much of the Sunni Insurgency has dissolved or joined --officially or otherwise-- with the Iraqi government and its Coalition allies. Iran has let up on its active support for the Shiite militias, which have been largely de-fanged, owing to the increasingly competent and well-run Iraqi Security Forces, under the surprisingly resolute leadership of a Maliki government which is moving increasingly steadily toward a true Unity composition. The time for timetables can reasonably be said to have arrived, if ever there was to be one.

One irritating misstatement in the WaPo editorial deserves highlighting:
By agreeing to a fixed deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, President Bush contradicted years of promises that he would never agree to anything but a "conditions-based" plan for phasing out the American military role there.
As I said, the timetable incorporated into this agreement can only be seen as a "contradiction" if one posits that all other considerations have remained static. They have not. The editorial staff of the WaPo could not resist this subtle bit of revisionist Bush-bashing, but it changes nothing. President Bush has weathered far worse, and remained undaunted.

Contrary to the shrill ululations of the Left, President Bush has shown himself to be a man of consummate character, for whom the interests of the Nation come before any considerations of popularity or credit.

For Bush’s team to leave Iraq in a condition in which it is safe for Obama to glide in and implement an agreement purchased at the price of so much noble blood irks me mightily; it gives Obama the opportunity to hold himself up as the statesman who completed the mission and withdrew our troops (”see? no bloodbath!”). He can claim credit for Ending The War ™, while he and his media acolytes whitewash the calamity which would have ensued if he had had a crack at policy-making prior to this auspicious time.

Fortunately, however, I can see no evidence that President Bush gives a fig about who gets the credit, so long as the mission is completed, American interests are protected, and the region is left more stable and strategically viable than he found it. The unmistakable impression is of a POTUS who is scrambling to set as many pieces of the game along favorable trajectories as possible before lesser hands take control of the board…not in the interests of a vain clutching at “Legacy,” so much as for the greater good of the Republic.

So, from Fallujah to FATA, our forces are moving at a blistering tempo to remove as many obstacles as can be from before the stumbling feet of The One, like removing the breakables from a room before one’s toddler enters it.

I still hold out a non-zero quantum of hope that Obama’s access to classified information will blunt the edge of his naively dovish foreign policy. For all of his failings, a lack of native intelligence is not one of them. He may learn and grow and not rush foolishly into the most destructive policies to which his campaign promises appeared to doom us. May it be so!

But if it is so, then I also hope that he takes a moment to acknowledge the debt of gratitude he owes to a certain Texan gentleman for sweeping some of the mines from his course.

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