Is it possible that things are shifting this quickly? First we find out that Bush may now accelerate troop withdrawals from Iraq:
Although no decision has been made, by the time President Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, at least one and as many as 3 of the 15 combat brigades now in Iraq could be withdrawn or at least scheduled for withdrawal, the officials said.
And so Bush's strategy and Obama's appear to be converging. Especially when you look at the given reason for Bush's move:
The desire to move more quickly reflects the view of many in the Pentagon who want to ease the strain on the military but also to free more troops for Afghanistan and potentially other missions...
“We have clearly seen an increase in violence in Afghanistan,” Mr. Gates said at Fort Lewis, discussing the carrier’s redeployment. “At the same time, we’ve seen a reduction in violence and casualties in Iraq. And I think it’s just part of our commitment to ensure that we have the resources available to be successful in Afghanistan over the long haul.”
It was always an Obama meme that we need to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan; now it's Bush's and Gates's. Meanwhile, in Iraq, Maliki's self-confidence, merited or not, continues to wax:
“We think that by the end of 2008 all the zones in Baghdad should be integrated into the city,” said Ali Dabbagh, the government’s spokesman. “The American soldiers should be based in agreed camps outside the cities and population areas.
“By the end of the year, there will be no green zone,” he added. “The separation by huge walls makes people feel angry.” Dabbagh acknowledged that getting rid of the green zone would be a huge undertaking, given the thousands of American soldiers, private contractors and foreign workers who live inside.
Everyone will try to spin this. But the good news for everyone is surely that we finally have some kind of Iraqi government that feels it has legitimacy and strength and isn't utterly at the behest of the occupying forces. This is a major achievement, and it would be churlish and wrong to deny the Bush administration credit - at least for the past year or so. At the same time, it confirms everything Obama has said about this conflict from the beginning and much that McCain said over a year ago about the surge.
Isn't it better to have various politicians vying to take credit for various aspects of a war instead of casting blame?
(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty.)