O'Hanlon, Pollack and Biddle unveil their latest on Iraq in The New York Times today. They are wise enough to recognize the difference between the presidential candidates' Iraq policies, but their own proposal depends on the problematic idea that the U.S. needs to have troops in place to outwait various militant groups who otherwise would be creating conflicts. Having troops in place until 2010 (the Obama/Maliki timetable) isn't long enough for them. Instead, they suggest that half of the troops can be withdrawn by 2011, and the rest dribbled out after that.

But look: The Iraqis want us out, and have made clear that they want to establish a timetable for withdrawal, even during their negotiations with the Bush administration before Maliki's big statement. Any strategy contingent on outwaiting insurgents will be undermined by that fact. The various reasons for the Iraqi security increase are still playing out, and will continue to do so. But these theorists need to recognize that this conflict is not sustainable for another three years, and the U.S. ability to affect the situation on the ground militarily is limited to building security forces for the Iraqi government, not preserving it themselves.

Then there is this wonderful moment of modern imperialism: "If the Iraqi government tells us to leave, we should go. But this would be a bad deal for both Iraqis and Americans." They've told us to leave. Shall we?

--Tim Fernholz

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