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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Withdrawal Timelines: Maliki Vs. Obama

Much has been made of the Iraqi government's "insistence" on timelines for withdrawal. Of course, this current narrative is yet another example of what happens when our press is corrupt and incompetent. In such a case, it is vital that the press provide the proper context. The press of course has no interest in providing proper context to the story. In geopolitics and war, there are timelines and there are timelines. In the world of political spin, timelines are whatever the spinmeisters make them.

Prime Minister Maliki recently did an interview with a German magazine, Der Spiegel. (H/T Hot Air)In that interview, Maliki seemed to indicate that he agreed with Obama's 16 month time line. Maliki has since tried to correct the matter. Essentially, Maliki sees 16 months as an ambitious goal that he would like to meet for troop withdrawal. Yet, Maliki, like McCain and Bush, sees troop withdrawal as a function of conditions in Iraq.

The question is how does Barack Obama see troop withdrawal. Obama has been rather unclear on this point. On the third of July, he initially indicated that troop withdrawal may in fact be a function of conditions in Iraq. Once the media played this up as a flip flop he immediately tried to correct himself and insisted that 16 months was a hard and fast rule. Furthermore, in his New York Times editorial, Barack Obama once again reiterated his commitment to a sixteen month timeline for withdrawal.

Ultimately, the question is not how long any party wants troops in Iraq. I am certain that PM Maliki would like the coalition troops to leave Iraq yesterday. I think that General Petraeus would concur and certainly the troops would like nothing better than to leave and go home. The difference is that each want to leave because the situation on the ground is stabilized enough for them to leave.

As for Barack Obama, he appears to intend to leave in sixteen months no matter what. That brings me to his overall point. He wants to end the war not win it. Back in the Summer of 2006, many of the embedded reporters with the Israeli soldiers indicated that military sources on the ground were telling them that the Israelis felt that they were weeks if not days away from finally putting away Hezbollah. We'll never know if that was a realistic prediction or wishful thinking. That's because Israel chose to end rather than win the war. At this moment, Barack Obama seems to be making the same plan. Rather than making decisions based on performance, he intends to make them based on the calendar. That's exact what the Israelis did in 2006 and suffered a humiliating result as a result.

That, in fact, is the difference in timelines between Maliki and Obama. One sees the timeline as a goal, and that goal is still ultimately a function of performance. The other sees the timeline is a function of the calendar. We all should have learned our lesson from the Israel/Hezbollah war of 2006 of what happens when wars are ended rather than won, and yet, Barack Obama continues to insist on making the same mistake again.

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