Here's an Iraq update for those of us (including me) who stopped paying close attention because the whole thing was too damned depressing:
1. Most Americans, including some prominent supporters of the war, now agree it was a mistake to invade.
2. We can't just leave, because (even more) chaos would ensue.
3. We have to leave, because otherwise the Iraqis will never take responsibility for their own security and make the difficult political compromises necessary for stability.
In light of these facts, the wise elder statesmen in the Iraq Study Group have come up with the perfect solution: pretend to leave. The New York Times reports that the panel "will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal." The pullback might not amount to a withdrawal; the troops might stay on military bases in Iraq or somehere nearby. But it still seems at odds with President Bush's insistence that "I'm not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete." And this unfirm nonwithdrawal is aimed at scaring Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki into taking a stand, or compromising, or whatever it is he's supposed to do to restore some semblance of the peace and order Iraq enjoyed under the murderous dictator with the bushy mustache whom the U.S. government deposed without completely thinking through the consequences. The members of the commission are patting themselves on the back for coming up with this subtle equivocation:
"I think everyone felt good about where we ended up," one person involved in the commission's debates said after the group ended its meeting. "It is neither 'cut and run' nor 'stay the course.' "
"Those who favor immediate withdrawal will not like it," he said, but it also "deviates significantly from the president's strategy." …
As one senior American military officer involved in Iraq strategy said, "The question is whether it doesn't look like a timeline to Bush, and does to Maliki."
Let's just hope that Bush and Maliki never talk to each other. Or read a paper.
Update: It looks like Bush is not falling for it. Who told?