The Wall Street Journal reported last week that US and Iraq negotiators have agreed on a timetable for American withdrawal from Iraq.
US forces are to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June, 2009, and from the country altogether in 2011 according to the plan. Unnamed US officials familiar with the talks told WSJ reporters Gina Chon and Yochi J. Dreazen that President George W. Bush was “almost certain to accept the agreement,” but that the pact probably would not be formally signed for at least a few more weeks.”
The usual interpretation of events is that a desperate last-ditch attempt by the American army to bring Iraq under control succeeded. Dexter Filkins, the veteran Iraq correspondent of The New York Times, expressed this consensus view last week:
The arrival of the 30,000 extra soldiers, deployed to Baghdad’s neighborhoods around the clock, allowed the American to exploit a series of momentous developments that had begun to unfold at roughly the same time: the splintering of Moktada al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army; the growing competence of the Iraqi Army; and, most important, the about-face by leaders of the country’s Sunni minority, who suddenly stopped opposing the Americans and joined with them against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other local extremist groups. The surge, clearly, has worked for now.
It is, however, equally possible that the decisive events took place in Washington in the first months of 2007, when newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) won a series of hard-fought legislative battles which made clear that the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives would not continue to fund the American presence in Iraqi indefinitely – or even much longer. The Bush administration countered with its plan for a short-lived surge.
The leadership of various Iraqi factions read the newspapers. Those “momentous developments” there thus may have stemmed as much from the recognition that the US Congressional majority that came to power following the mid-term election of 2006 would soon end, no matter what, the remarkable American misadventure in Iraq, as from those “extra boots on the ground” and the more generals leading them.
Political expectations are as rational as economic ones.
[Another part of the same post discusses a new book on global warming by William Nordhaus, A Question of Balance.]