Abe Greenwald asks:

Why does Obama without delving into the regional ramifications want to make it clear to Iraq, its neighbors, and terrorists laying in wait that “we have no interest in permanent bases”? This is not necessarily to say that we do have such interests or that we should. But it’s certainly a question that demands a more nuanced approach than the one the Democratic nominee has fashioned into a cuddly soundbite.

I imagine that Obama said such a thing because he wants to keep up the pressure on the Iraqis to get their act together and to reassure them that the US has no imperial designs on the region. That, after all, would be one of the benefits of having a president who opposed the Iraq war from the get-go - the suspicion that the US concocted the whole thing in order to station troops in a pliant province to counter Iran would be dispelled. Actually, that might make our withdrawal less urgent. Once everyone knows we really want out, they may beg us to stay long enough to ensure that the Iraqi army can control its own territory - unafraid that it's all a ruse for a new American century, to coin a phrase.

Look: the surge has confounded many of us who were skeptical that it could work. By a combination of luck, tactical brilliance, and some key shifts - the Sunni switcheroo, the Sadrite pause - it has led to a much brighter 2008 than I certainly anticipated. But the point of the surge was to galvanize an Iraqi political solution so that we could leave. This won''t be easy under McCain or Obama. It may take time to get it right. But the goal of getting out of the place entirely is clear, no?

If we can do it in the next president's first term, great.

Or is it so clear? The neocons do not want us out of Iraq. They want us there for ever, with significant troop levels, to contain and potentially attack Iran. And McCain, so far as I can tell, has sided with the neocons on this - hence his 100 year remark. If the US can keep permanent military bases in Iraq for the next century, McCain would love it. Obama wouldn't. This is a key difference in vision and strategy for foreign policy. It seems to me that it should be on the table in this election: do you want permanent US
military bases on the central Shiite-Sunni faultline in the Middle East? Or not?

I think we know what Bill Kristol and Dick Cheney want. Do the American people agree? Let's have a vote on it, shall we?

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