Seeing as the terrorist element's capabilities have only improved over time and the rise of Shi'ite power in Iraq will continue to draw jihadis and Saudi money with or without our presence (of course the inflows of foreign volunteers will likely wane in our absence as the jihad loses anti-American appeal), the current plan to provide them with targets for an indefinite period until the achievement of goals we still haven't defined* doesn't seem to make sense. If, as I suspect, the Administration's stated goals in Iraq, ill-formed and shifting as they are, bear only slight and incidental resemblance to their actual goals, then it all becomes a little clearer, if no saner.
One thing's for sure, in light of our pending withdrawal, accepted or not by the war's supporters, the Sunni tribes, already hostile toward the takfiris our invasion brought in its wake, will continue as they are now, turning on the terrorist element in expectation of our imminent departure:
"Everyone is convinced Coalition forces are going to leave and they are saying, 'We do not want Al Qaeda to take control of the area when that happens.' For them, Al Qaeda is a greater threat long term."The War Party, for all of their bluster, cannot see that the timetable effect they predict is already operational (and we are already becoming irrelevant to the long term plans of Iraqis). That may not be such a bad thing for Iraq (whatever the case it is the only thing, now), if not for the plans of the Cheney Administration.
Iraqis are already determining their future without us; they are already "waiting us out", staying out of the way of the giant or manipulating it when possible (and perhaps those who have the chance are rushing to fill their pails before the well of U.S. largess dries up). Bush's resistance to withdrawal or timetables is merely the continuing and deteriorating effort to preserve a presence and hence some stake in the development of Iraq's oil fields.
Some are touting the uneasy alliance we're striking with tribal leaders in al Anbar against al Qaeda as "progress"; unless our goal was to create a war between jihadists and Iraq's Sunni tribes and then place ourselves in the middle of it, I remain unimpressed.
We are responsible for the disaster we've created in Iraq, in particular for the Sunnis, yet the claim that we're fighting there a force capable of threatening our security here, or anywhere outside of Iraq for that matter, remains as patently absurd now as the hysteria about Saddam's "threat" was four years ago.
*today's five-day forecast for the prevailing definition of success, according to the president:
Note the president's remarks above were made in the same speech where he repeated the name "al Qaeda" dozens of times in a ham-fisted and shameless attempt to shore up support by invoking yet again 9/11, yet this fuzzy definition of success, and still he turned about and asserted that the primary difficulty is not the sectarian warfare he cites as necessitating prolonging the occupation, but foreign terrorists:
"Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed," he said. "And the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. [bold added] Success is not no violence... But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives."
"The recent attacks are not the revenge killings that some have called a civil war," Bush told the Associated General Contractors of America. "They are a systematic assault on the entire nation. Al-Qaida is public enemy No. 1 in Iraq." [bold added]Apparently the confusion is so pervasive that it cannot even be overcome within the confines of a single speech.