Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reading the Tea Leaves

Parsing statements from foreign leaders can be a frustrating endeavour. Prime Minister Maliki's seeming endorsement of Obama's plan for withdrawal may be just such a case. Opponents of continued American and International troops continuing presence there have been quick to seize on these statements; even the redoubtable Mark Shea.

There are arguments to be made and considered. I will not endorse any particular conclusion. But please note an Iraqi's take on this. And note the following also:

Required Reading: "

4) From the Washington Post, ‘Behind Maliki’s Games’ by Max Boot

The always excellent Boot deconstructs Nouri al-Maliki’s series of statements from the last week. Long story short? If the left wants to be intellectually honest, it might not want to make too much of this momentary propaganda coup:

In May 2006, shortly after becoming prime minister, he claimed, 'Our forces are capable of taking over the security in all Iraqi provinces within a year and a half.'

In October 2006, when violence was spinning out of control, Maliki declared that it would be 'only a matter of months' before his security forces could 'take over the security portfolio entirely and keep some multinational forces only in a supporting role.'

President Bush wisely ignored Maliki. Instead of withdrawing U.S. troops, he sent more. The prime minister wasn't happy. On Dec. 15, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported, 'Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has flatly told Gen. George Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, that he doesn't want more U.S. personnel deployed to the country, according to U.S. military officials.' When the surge went ahead anyway, Maliki gave it an endorsement described in news accounts as 'lukewarm.'

In January 2007, with the surge just starting, Maliki predicted 'that within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down.' In April 2007, when most of Baghdad was still out of control, the prime minister said that Iraqi forces would assume control of security in every province by the end of the year.

Watching Anderson Cooper a couple of nights ago as he breathlessly reported on Maliki’s comments from Friday (and hilariously referred to them as ‘breaking news’ more than 72 hours after they were uttered), I couldn’t help but be struck how Cooper and his reporters treated Maliki as some sort of omniscient figure who always knows best. That clearly hasn’t been the case.

That said, I feel the need to reiterate what I wrote yesterday. Victory in Iraq is within reach, and John McCain has to show an appropriate eagerness for seizing the victory that he midwifed. To date, McCain hasn’t done so, although on a conference call yesterday his surrogates did belatedly show a more appropriate enthusiasm for ending the war. The American public wants this war won, and then it wants the war ended. The public does not want it fought endlessly. McCain’s resolve is admirable – his resolve made victory possible. But the campaign has to focus on what lies ahead, specifically the road to victory and then the road home. Promising an indefinite slog doesn’t square with the facts on the ground, and the McCain campaign has to be cognizant of that fact.

(Via Campaign Standard.)

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