Again I find myself in the uncomfortable and unexpected position of agreeing with a New York Times op-ed by Stephen Biddle, Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack:
If the Iraqi government tells us to leave, we should go. But this would be a bad deal for both Iraqis and Americans. Iraq is indeed much more secure than it was two years ago, thus it seems safe to suggest timing goals for significant withdrawals. Yet having recently returned from a research trip to Iraq, we are convinced that a total withdrawal of combat troops any time soon would be unwise.
The authors continue:
Still, the Balkan experience suggests a serious prospect for major withdrawals — perhaps on the order of half the American troop presence — in the next two to three years. Thereafter, if current trends continue, reductions might proceed roughly on the Balkan schedule — with barely 10 percent of the original force expected to be remaining a decade after the end of major hostilities.
I continue to believe that’s what Sen. Obama is actually proposing as dismaying as that might be in some quarters of his base. Until he further defines the size of the vestigial force he plans to leave in the country, I’ll continue to believe it.