Wednesday, August 18, 2010

it's not the end, but halfway there is something

i've seen a lot of sarcasm about the touted "end of combat operations in iraq" when there will be 50,000 u.s. soldiers in-country at the end of the month. i understand the sarcasm. the entire distinction between "combat troops" and "non-combat troops" seems to be comprised of three letters and a dash. but it's still a landmark of sorts. a year and a half ago there were 140,000 u.s. soldiers in the country. that's a significant decline. it's not as fast as i would want, but what do i know about the logistics of getting that many soldiers and their equipment out?

the main thing that i think is significant is that the obama administration is following the timetable for withdrawal set forth in the SOFA. u.s. troops were withdrawn from iraqi cities by june 30, 2009, as required by the timetable. and now it looks like they will make it down to 50k troops which they will dutifully label "non-combat" by august 31, 2010. those two milestones are important because it means that the u.s. is on track for the next milestone, really the one that really counts: having all u.s. soldiers (whether "combat" or "non-combat") out by december 31, 2011. the fact that the obama administration complied with the first two doesn't necessarily mean it will comply with that last deadline. but the plan does lead to zero and, so far at least, they are following the plan.

(that's not to say that the entire SOFA schedule has worked out. the iraqis still haven't held the SOFA referendum, and it seems pretty unlikely they will any time soon given the total political paralysis that has followed the last parliamentary election. pretty soon the vote on an earlier withdrawal will be rendered moot.)

but the thing that is annoying about the obama administration's handling of this is all this premature triumphalism. they say that "operation iraqi freedom is officially over" when really we're just at an arbitrary halfway point of a slow draw-down. i'm all for celebrating the end of the iraq war. but why not wait until it's actually over before tooting that particular horn?