When you look at the information coming out about the new Iraq SOFA and its timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, it’s worth putting it in the context of this pre-war argument between Bush and Nouri al-Maliki. Here’s a January 2007 account:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had a surprise for President Bush when they sat down with their aides in the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, Jordan. Firing up a PowerPoint presentation, Maliki and his national security adviser proposed that U.S. troops withdraw to the outskirts of Baghdad and let Iraqis take over security in the strife-torn capital. Maliki said he did not want any more U.S. troops at all, just more authority.
The president listened intently to the unexpected proposal at their Nov. 30 meeting, according to accounts from several administration officials. Bush seemed impressed that Maliki had taken the initiative, but it did not take him long to reject the idea.
Details, of course, differ and there were some problems with Maliki’s proposal from the point of view of operational specifics. But basically back in November 2006, Iraqi political leaders and progressives in the United States alike wanted to see some kind of phased redeployment of American troops out of Iraqi cities and then out of Iraq. Bush, instead, opted for the “surge” strategy and now eighteen months later we’re . . . doing roughly what Maliki wants which is roughly what he wanted 18 months ago which is roughly what progressives have been saying we should do for a log time. To surge proponents, the fact that they are now proposing what we were proposing years ago underscores the success of the surge. That seems a bit curious to me, but if it helps bolster political support for doing the right thing it might not be the worst thing in the world. But still, the proper chronological perspective leaves me wondering what the surge is supposed to have accomplished.
Well over $100 billion has been spent since Maliki’s November 2006 PowerPoint, and lots of America soldiers have been killed or maimed. And now they’re in a position to basically walk through the door that’s been open at least since the midterm elections — one where we leave Iraq not in “defeat” but with a handshake and a pat on the back from the new government, and a determination to cut our losses on an endeavor that never made strategic sense.