CLEARING THE AIR….Should we have a timetable for pulling out of Iraq? Or should we leave “only when the job is done”?

I’ve actually been sympathetic with the administration line that we need to stay until the job is done and only then get out. After all, regardless of whether the war was right, it seems like we owe the Iraqis a decent reconstruction and an end to the insurgency, and we shouldn’t leave until we accomplish that. (My biggest problem with this is that it’s not clear the Bush administration can end the insurgency with the resources they’re willing to use, but put that aside for now.)

Conversely, the timetable argument hinges on the idea that it’s our very presence that’s causing the insurgency. The insurgents might very well run out of steam if everyone knew for sure that we were going to leave sometime in the foreseeable future and weren’t planning a permanent military presence. However, Matt Yglesias points out a wee problem:

It’s become a staple of “responsible” criticism of the administration to say that Bush ought to “make clear” that we’re not trying to establish permanent bases. But the all-important first step here would be to actually stop trying to establish permanent bases.

This reminds me of a post I did a long time ago about an international poll showing that foreigners thought we were invading Iraq just to get our hands on their oil. Since foreign support for the war was such a problem, I said, why not just make an unequivocal statement that we’d put Iraqi oil under the control of the UN or some other international body? It would take the steam out of the anti-war movement and wouldn’t hurt U.S. interests at all.

So why didn’t we make a statement like this back when it would have been helpful? And why don’t we now say that we have no plans for a long term military presence in Iraq, since that might be pretty helpful too?