Retreat and Defeat

Iraqi cabinet passes security agreement including a fixed timeline for withdrawal:

The draft approved Sunday requires coalition forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns by the summer of 2009 and from the country by the end of 2011. An earlier version had language giving some flexibility to that deadline, with both sides discussing timetables and timelines for withdrawal, but the Iraqis managed to have the deadline set in stone, a significant negotiating victory. The United States has around 150,000 troops in Iraq.

Considering what a disaster US policy toward Iraq was throughout 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, the situation facing us looking forward strikes me as a great instance of the “God loves drunks and the United States of America” principle. At the beginning of 2007, we were locked into a really bitter policy debate with liberals (like me!) pushing for a withdrawal timeline and the President backing a desperation gamble “surge” strategy. It seemed to me that things were likely to get very ugly, both domestically and in Iraq. But the surge’s tactical gains have been sufficiently impressive to eliminate most of the “feel bad” sentiment raised by the specter of a lost war, and the surge’s strategic failure has manifested itself primarily through Iraqi and American politicians all converging around a forward-looking proposal that’s very similar to what American liberals were proposing.

Withdrawal, when it really operationally arrives in 2010, looks like it’ll barely be controversial. That’s certainly something I wouldn’t have predicted 18 months ago.