Keeping in mind Robert Burns' advice that the best-laid schemes "O mice an 'men Gang aft agley [often go astray], An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!" there is a glimmer of great good news about Iraq that might just portend a lasting solution to what has been an ongoing debacle.
Good news, that is, for President Bush and the Republican Party but bad, bad news for that huge segment of the Democratic Party that in their pursuit to recapture the White House and maintain control of Congress lust after a crushing defeat for their country in the war in Iraq.
A blockbuster story in Tuesday's New York Sun revealed a startling development in the administration's planning that would result in an end to our occupation in Iraqi and a substantial withdrawal of most U.S. forces by the summer of 2008, thereby depriving the Democrats of the issue they hope will propel them to an overwhelming victory in the 2008 elections.
According to the Sun, which shines brightly through the dark clouds emanating from The New York Times building, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Iraq war tsar has "quietly announced that the American and Iraqi governments will start talks early next year to bring about an end to the allied occupation by the close of Mr. Bush's presidency."
To put it simply, what is in the works is an end to our occupation of Iraq, withdrawal of all but 50,000 U.S. troops in non-combat roles, all taking place next July, long before the November elections.
The Times, of course, could not find space to report this incredible breakthrough although it has to rate as the most important development in the long and dreary saga of the Iraq war.
The Sun explained that, "The negotiations will bring to a formal conclusion the U.N. Chapter 7 Security Council involvement in the occupation and administration of Iraq, and are expected to reduce the number of American troops to about 50,000 troops permanently stationed there but largely confined to barracks, from the current 164,000 forces on active duty.
Speaking to reporters in the White House Monday, General Lute said, 'The basic message here should be clear. Iraq is increasingly able to stand on its own. That's very good news. But it won't have to stand alone.'"
The key point here is that as of the summer of election year 2008, the Iraq war will cease to be the key issue in the presidential and congressional elections, the issue could be transformed from being a signal failure of the Bush administration to a substantial vindication of the Bush administration's present war policy.
Coming on the heels of the stunning success of the so-called "surge" in drastically lowering the violence in the very worst terrorist enclaves and driving al-Qaida thugs from their strongholds, it sounds a death knell for Democrat hopes of a landslide victory next year.
In a teleconference Monday, Gen. Lute reported that the president and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamel Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki "agreed to a Declaration of Principles in a teleconference a 'nonbinding pact' that set forth a 'common sheet of music with which to begin the negotiations,' to be completed by July 2008, which would end with 'an enduring relationship based on mutual interests.'"
He added that the United States and Iraq will decide on a "strategic framework agreement," a bilateral arrangement for a continuing American presence in the country, including the number of American troops to remain as a bulwark against political instability and a safeguard against continuing al-Qaida attacks.
"The shape and size of any long-term — or longer than 2008 — U.S. presence in Iraq will be a key matter for negotiation between the two parties, Iraq and the United States," the general said. The Sun noted that 20,000 American troops are already due to leave Iraq by July 2008.
He added that in principal, the agreement is proof that the U.S. "will protect our interests in Iraq, alongside our Iraqi partners, and that we consider Iraq a key strategic partner, able to increasingly contribute to regional security."
The implications here are enormous.
In addition to the establishment of a date certain for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, a frequent Democratic demand, all other such Democratic talking points as the failure of the Iraqi government to live up to the so-called "benchmarks" and our involvement in an alleged "civil war" become moot. They will be on their own and the future is in their hands.
At last there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Let's hope that this best laid plan does not gang agley "An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!"
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist and World War II Marine who writes for Newsmax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://WWW.pvbr.Com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s.
He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska.
He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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