General David Petraeus recommended today during Congressional testimony that troop "drawdown" from Iraq cease for a minimum of 45 days after the surge force completes its stint. Will the troop reductions recommence after the 45 days are up? Well, no, not exactly: After the 45 days expire, Petraeus testified, "...we will commence a process of assessment to examine the conditions on the ground and, over time, determine when we can make recommendations for further reductions...” So, in 45 days, "we" will commence to begin to get ready to take a look at how things are at the time and decide whether or not "we" can begin to decide whether or not "we" can start to think about further drawdowns. Got that?
If case you didn't, allow the general to clarify: "This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit.” Still not sure what he means? Here's the nub of it: "This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable." To do anything else would undermine the "progress" brought about by the surge. Ambassador Ryan Crocker understands why someone might not get this: “Taken as a snapshot, with scenes of increasing violence, and masked gunmen in the streets, it is hard to see how this situation supports a narrative of progress in Iraq.”
But, you see, just the fact that the Maliki governed tried and failed dismally in Basra has great strategic import ("major significance"), although Crocker doesn't explain what that might be or how the average American might recognize it. "There is still much to be done," he allows, and presumably we have to trust the Iraqi government to get around to it. Whenever that will be, it's unlikely to occur within 45 days. Luckily, the Bush Administration is making progress on the long-term agreement of a legal framework for allowing the continued presence of American troops.
What this amounts to is the fruits of yet another Bush Administration bait-and-switch. At root, Petraeus and Bush propose to make an open-ended commitment to the Maliki government. The Basra expedition wound up inserting American lives into the breech of an intra-Shiite squabble that ended only when Muqtada al-Sadr decided to call an end to it. This is what they want us to commit American lives and treasure to. Of course, the other end result of Petraeus' recommendation will be to punt the matter of troop reductions to the next president. It amounts to one more instance of dereliction of duty by the Bush Administration.
Dispatches from Blogland: Renegade Eye wants your recipes...Foxessa remembers The Wanderers while looking forward to the new novel by Richard Price...Scrumpy's Baker considers the fitness alternative offered by a Japanese game show...As Julia Sweeney anticipates the new R. E. M. album, even the thought of it makes one of her commenters feel old. I know where he's coming from: There was a time when I felt out of touch because I wasn't up on R. E. M. Now...Meanwhile, Abrogast discovers pictures of Civil War dead that resonate with contemporary eloquence...Premium T. contemplates sewing after a 10-year hiatus...