Sunday, November 16, 2008

Maliki Schooled Bush

After opposing "timelines for withdrawal" from Iraq on principle for years now, the Bush Administration has agreed to one. One of the things that struck me about the article was the way time constraints led to the Administration giving in on one of its key lines in the sand. My guess is that Iraqi officials stalled, and Bush blinked:

The U.S. government has lobbied hard for the status-of-forces agreement, which would replace a United Nations mandate authorizing the U.S. presence that expires on Dec. 31. Without some legal umbrella, the 150,000 U.S. forces would have to end their operations in Iraq in a few weeks' time, military officials said.


One issue is timing: The notoriously slow-moving Iraqi parliament is scheduled to adjourn on Nov. 25 for a three-week break to allow lawmakers to make the hajj pilgrimage. "We have a limited window of time," warned Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister.

America has been generally belligerent toward the nascent Iraqi state, treating their clear wishes, such as timelines, as the suggestions of politicians clearly out of their depth.

This paternalism is the sort of thing that hawks believe projects strength, but by refusing to budge on Iraq's (and the rest of the world's) demands for more autonomy, reductions in U.S. forces, legal accountability for the actions of U.S. military and civilian personnel and a timeline for withdrawal, America has backed itself into a corner where the only options were "leave soon" or "leave now." America could have spent the last five and a half years working in good faith with Iraqi officials to transfer authority as soon as possible, but instead Bush insisted on calling the shots, thus weakening his position when the inevitable day came when America had to negotiate.

Maliki was aware of this, but the Administration seemed to be oblivious. Another example of the grotesque hubris and myopia that have characterized the Bush years. Basically, Maliki schooled Bush.

(Cross-posted at Decline and Fall.)