March 28, 2005


Getting out of Iraq II (Robert Novak, March 28, 2005, Townhall)

Determination high in the Bush administration to begin irreversible withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq this year is reinforced by the presence at the State Department of the most dominant secretary since Henry Kissinger three decades ago. Condoleezza Rice is expected to support administration officials who want to leave even if what is left behind does not constitute perfection.

Amid the presidential campaign's furious debate over Iraq, I reported last Sept. 20 ("Getting Out of Iraq") about strong feeling in the policymaking apparatus to get out of Iraq in 2005 even if democracy and peace had not been achieved there. My column evoked widespread expressions of disbelief, but changes over the last six months have only strengthened the view of my Bush administration sources that the escape from Iraq should begin once a permanent government is in place in Baghdad.

The most obvious change is the improved situation on the ground in Iraq, where it is no longer preposterous to imagine local security forces in control. Subtler is the advent of Secretary of State Rice. This willowy, vulnerable-looking woman wields measurably more power than Colin Powell, the robust general who preceded her. Officials who know her well believe she favors the escape from Iraq.

"She is not controlled by the neo-cons insisting on achieving a perfect democracy before we go," a colleague told me.

The same folks who accused Mr. Bush of imperialism when he invaded, and of wanting a permanent presence there, now accuse him of leaving hastily when he does exactly what he said we'd do--help them take control of their own governance and then leave.

Iraq's Sunni Arabs Seek Their Voice: The divided minority is trying to stake a claim in a system now dominated by Shiites and Kurds. (Richard Boudreaux, March 28, 2005, LA Times)

Nearly two months after most of them sat out Iraq's historic election, 200 Sunni Arab leaders gathered to consider a belated plunge into democratic politics.

It was not a civil discussion. As a legal scholar was explaining how they could help write a new constitution, a tribal chief cut him off, shouting, "Long live the resistance!"

The chief, Mazin Jaber Nima, said the Sunni Arab-led insurgency against American troops would falter if Sunni Arabs joined in the U.S.-backed creation of a new political order.

Applause filled the Babylon Hotel's ballroom, but the next speaker was undeterred. "The subject today is how to represent the Sunni people in the political process," argued Sheik Isam Sheikhli. "Do we do it with slogans? If we go on like this, we will not achieve a thing."

After three hours of raucous debate, advocates of the political boycott gave up. The conference, one of several such Sunni Arab initiatives, endorsed a vague plan to lobby for government posts and a role in drafting the constitution.

Tardy though it is, the shift is encouraging news for the U.S. effort to spread democracy in the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 28, 2005 7:28 AM

Once the pullout does begin, look for a spike in "sliding back into anarchy" stories out of Iraq, with any attacks being seen as a sign that the U.S. can't pull out right now or the nation will be thrown into chaos.

Posted by: John at March 28, 2005 8:52 AM

GWB will be blamed for the ensuing chaos (real or imagined) and comparisons will be drawn to our retreat from Saigon 30 years ago.

Posted by: Dave W. at March 28, 2005 10:26 AM