"HEADS WE STAY, TAILS WE NEVER LEAVE."

Tim and Ezra had some good comments yesterday the silly O'Hanlon/Pollack/Biddle Op-Ed. What bothers me is the omission of any admission that prolonging the stay of U.S. forces in Iraq is, in and of itself, a source of instability. Since Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's statement regarding Obama's plan for withdrawal, Bush and McCain have had to adjust their positions to call, at least nominally, for an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces.

But the O'Hanlon/Pollack/Biddle approach suggests that there will always be another vitally important even that requires the support of the American military. An administration that say, wanted something close to an indefinite occupation can say "we want to leave," while always finding a new reason to stay.

In this case, they argue that "to capitalize on this progress the next two rounds of elections -- provincial races this fall and a national contest next year -- must go smoothly and be seen as legitimate" and therefore, "American combat troops are needed to protect polling places from terrorism, and even more important, from voter intimidation, fraud and the perception that the results were rigged." But how legitimate will these elections look to the people of Iraq when one of the most important issues--the presence of foreign military forces--isn't really on the table for them to decide?

--A.Serwer

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