Politics of Evasion

In a strange convergence, William Greider in The Nation endorses (without calling it that) the Jonah Goldberg referendum plan for Iraq, doing us the kindness of specifying what question he wants to see. Namely, Iraqis should choose between these three options:

1. I ask that all coalition forces be withdrawn within six months of the date of this referendum.

2. I ask that all coalition forces be withdrawn within one year of the date of this referendum.

3. I ask that the government of Iraq determine some time in the future when all coalition forces should be withdrawn.

Like any referendum-based plan for Iraq, this seems to me to founder on the details. Ask three questions and there'll probably be no majority. And suppose option three winds in a plurality grounded in overwhelming Kurdish support but clear majorities of Iraqi Arabs want us to leave in a six or twelve month timeframe. Then withdrawing loses legitimacy (we held a referendum!) but staying also loses the relevant sort of legitimacy in the Arab-populated areas where we're actually operating (we voted for y'all to leave and you're still here). Ultimately, this whole notion strikes me as a rather desperate casting-about, a desire to somehow evade the rather ugly policy choices facing the nation.

Call it the populist counterpoint to David Ignatius' call for "less partisan bickering" as the solution to Iraq.