The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is privately telling American officials that it wants their army to stay here after this year.
The Americans are privately telling their Iraqi counterparts that they want to stay.
But under what conditions, and at what price to the Americans who stay behind?
American combat deaths are on the rise here, an ominous harbinger of what lies ahead if an agreement is reached to keep troops here after the withdrawal deadline set for the end of the year. For the same Iraqi government that wants the Americans to stay is also tacitly condoning attacks by Shiite militias on American troops, by failing to respond as aggressively to their attacks as it does to those of Sunni insurgent groups such as Al Qaeda in Iraq.
All things being equal, the Iraqis would prefer an agreement between the two governments for a continued troop presence without the political complications that would come from submitting it to Parliament. The Americans have insisted any deal be ratified by Parliament because their lawyers have decided it is the only way to secure legal immunities for any soldiers that stay.
To make this palatable to the citizenry in Iraq and the United States, the public relations game is to draft language that is politically acceptable yet obscures the reality that American soldiers will continue to face an enemy, will need to defend themselves and will almost certainly continue to die.
The New York Times makes a show of objectivity, but here the mask has fallen. The piece drips with skepticism and war weariness, but that’s because the American people are so skeptical and war weary that this sort of piece is cautious and measured compared to the real feelings of the populace.
We’re on the precipice of national default and the Obama administration can’t do anything about a war without end and meaning? Barack Obama put his political capital behind health care reform, and passed it. He’s a liberal Democrat. What else did you expect him to do? But he’s a liberal Democrat with the power of the executive branch in foreign policy, why isn’t he cutting short this farce! Is the institutional power of the military-industrial complex and the internationalist elite such that there is no chance that any American executive can extract us from foolish entanglements?