Trudy Rubin on Iraq

TRUDY RUBIN ON IRAQ….Jeff Weintraub recommends that I read the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Trudy Rubin, who has recently been in Iraq and has a good feel for what’s happening on the ground there. So I did. And after a bit of back and forth about what our military leaders think about drawing down our forces in Iraq, here’s what she says about the debate over withdrawal:

Iraqi officials from nearly all factions say they want U.S. troops drawn down within 18 months. Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie wrote in the Washington Post recently that he expected most of the U.S. troops “to return home by the end of 2007.”

However, neither Rubaie nor more senior Iraqi leaders want an explicit timeline. Instead, they favor a “road map” for troop reductions, that depends on achieving a set of goals for improving Iraqi security. They want dates, but dates that depend on meeting those targets.

This is not precisely what the Reed-Levin resolution called for, but it’s pretty close: make at least a small start on troop drawdowns this year; don’t set a specific timetable for further drawdowns; but do insist that the Bush administration submit a redeployment plan by the end of the year that specifies “estimated dates…with the understanding that unexpected contingencies may arise.”

It’s difficult to understand why anyone would oppose this ? though every Republican senator but one did. It’s little more than an official acknowledgement that we don’t intend to stay in Iraq forever, and practically the only concrete thing it asks for is that the Bush administration tell us what its goals are in Iraq and then provide some rough estimates for accomplishing these goals. What’s more, if Rubin is right, this is almost exactly what the Iraqi leadership wants.

So that’s that: I’ve read Trudy Rubin and I agree that she sounds pretty sensible. Both she and the Iraqi leadership appear to believe that an open-ended commitment to the occupation of Iraq is a bad idea, and that a vague commitment to drawing down U.S. forces that’s something short of a firm timetable is a good idea. On that score, 38 out of 44 Senate Democrats seem to agree. Unfortunately, the Bush administration doesn’t.