Friday, February 27, 2009

16 Means 18, and 'Withdraw' Doesn't Mean Withdraw

Finally, we see what President Obama means by his 16-month withdrawal timeline in Iraq. The 16-month timeline whose start date seemed so elusive over the course of the campaign season finally has started ticking (as an 18-month timeline, which is entertaining perhaps but not substantially different), but the meaning of "withdraw" has changed.

Apparently, "withdraw" means "we will leave some fifty thousand troops" after the U.S. finishes its departure in the fall of 2010. That's over twice the 24,500 Bush II planned to leave in Korea to defend against incursion by North Korean totalitarians.

This is rather a more realistic view of withdrawal from Iraq than Obama articulated on the campaign trail. (The winner of the military policy spin game -- played against enemies of secular democracy in Iraq -- was not in fact either McCain or Obama but Iraq's own Prime Minister Maliki.) The places the U.S. won wars -- Germany, Japan, Korea -- have longstanding and substantial U.S. presence to prevent loss of those regions to forces similar to those originally combatted. (Yes, the Nazis were obliterated, but the difference between National Socialism's totalitarian police state and that offered by the Soviets is an acedemic hair; Stalin seems to have more notches in his belt and definitely ran internment camps and secret prisons and summary executions and his successors continued his work to expand global Soviet control.) The idea that the U.S. would "win" a conflict in the Middle East and immediately abandon the region to the forces whose evil invited American intervention in the first place was a naïve view contrary to local practicalities and to long-term U.S. interests.

On the impact of immediate abandonment, one might want to think about Charlie Wilson's war and the effect of U.S. abandonment of Afghanistan following successful ejection of the Soviets. The fact that the Democrats in Congress appear to feel betrayed by Obama's "unacceptable" plan for "withdrawal" suggests -- much as does McCain's apparent approval of the plan -- that it has been developed into something much more practical than the ideological pronouncements made on the campaign trail.

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