Iraqi politicians demand an American exit timetable. Good. Let them pick a date certain they can govern and defend themselves — then hasta la vista, baby!
In its war to liberate Iraq from the bloody Saddam Hussein dictatorship, the Bush administration has been accused of a shelf full of miscalculations, most of them subject to honest debate. One isn’t.
It’s rare in history that nations who lose wars are grateful to those who beat the daylights out of them. That usually comes decades later, if ever. Most of the Iraqi politicians now running the wobbly post-war government in Baghdad would still be in exile or occupying shallow, sandy graves had it not been for spent American blood and treasure.
Now, they are petulantly stamping their sandals on the priceless carpets covering the marbled floors of the palace once graced by Saddam Hussein. They are not suggesting, not asking, they are demanding the United States certify to them a firm timetable for pulling out its troops.
Unless Washington gives that timetable to them now — right now! — they threaten not to sign a status-of-forces agreement.
Wherever U.S. troops are stationed, with consent and cooperation of host nations, there is such a status-of-forces agreement. A few examples: South Korea, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Kuwait.
A status-of-forces agreement with Iraq, which the U.S. obviously desires, would permit a limited force to remain as, frankly, good neighbors to keep nearby jackal states, such as Iran, from feasting on Iraq like a carcass.
It’s probably a healthy sign that Iraq is coming into its own (thanks to U.S. deliverance). The strutting that Iraqi pols are doing is what strutting pols everywhere do. They feel rubbing a certain amount of salt in Uncle Sam’s eyes is necessary for them to prove their testosterone levels to the home folks.
Arab politicians are old hands at playing “scratch my back, and I’ll stab yours.” The boys in Baghdad have to know this is no time for them to be carrying on like this, what with the U.S. in the midst of a touch-and-go election. They also have to know the withdrawal-timetable politics they are playing falls right into the hands of one of the two American presidential candidates, Barack Obama, who wanted that timetable to begin months ago.
President Bush is going to have his hands full, internationally, in the weeks ahead, with Iran and Israel on the cusp of war and Russia and Georgia already there. He doesn’t need the Iraqis making matters worse.
Obama could be counted on to try to make hay out of the Iraqis’ demand for a specific timetable. No one should be shocked to learn the Obama camp had a back-channel of its own to Baghdad, egging them on.
So, this would be an ideal time for John McCain to go to bat. He could drive in two runs with one swing. First, he could help his country’s foreign policy. Then, he could enhance his own foreign-affairs expertise over Obama’s lack.
It would be great to hear McCain saying something like: “All along, the purpose of the surge, which I helped to father, has been to make it possible to bring home American troops as soon as Iraq can handle its own affairs and protect its own people.
“I’m delighted the Iraqi government feels we are this close to achieving that goal. So, I call upon them — not us — to name the date certain when they feel they are good and ready to protect themselves and their own people and, thus, for all our troops but a token security force to leave.
“It will be their decision, not ours. And if Gen. David Petraeus agrees with that date, so will I.
“See? I said the surge would work — the surge Sen. Obama still opposes.”
John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com.
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