Spencer Ackerman catches the Editors of the National Review being more-or-less okay with the President Barack Obama's plans to withdraw troops from Iraq in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement that the United States entered into with the Iraqi government last year. And good for them! How did this come to pass? Basically, a crap-ton of magical thinking and hair-splitting. Obama's willing to allow that the "Surge" did not yield nothing? Then it must have yielded everything! The left wanted a sixteen month withdrawal? Well BURN, it's nineteen months! Will troops still be fighting, or participating in "combat missions," or "in harms way?" Yes? Well, then, suck it, peaceniks!
Basically, there's not a stitch of strategic concern beyond who's talking points can be depicted as having barely prevailed. If the National Review can preserve some sort of idea that there's another editorial board somewhere chafing at how they didn't get everything they wanted from the President they supported, that's good enough for them. Nevertheless, considering these same editors once insisted that withdrawal equaled "defeat-o-cratism" and that the American people would never embrace either, this is a significant moment of backtracking. Though not without some fundamental errors in fact:
Obama outlined a scheme for withdrawal not that different from the one George W. Bush left him. With the war ebbing in Iraq, it was inevitable that our force levels would come down.
Wrong on both counts. Obama did not inherit a "scheme" for withdrawal. What he inherited was a Status of Forces Agreement with a withdrawal timetable that Bush was outflanked by the Iraqis into accepting. Bush deserves credit for bowing to that reality, but the fact that the SOFA included a timetable at Iraqi insistence was most certainly not what he wanted. It did not include any formula for drawing down troops before 2011. Nor was it in fact "inevitable" that troop levels would in fact come down: had John McCain been elected president, he could have followed through on his campaign rhetoric and sought to revise the SOFA. Instead, McCain flip-flopped.
I agree with Spencer that "whatever path conservatives need to take to embrace withdrawal is welcome." Most importantly, we can all note the end of the regime elucidated by the unnamed Bush aide who told Ron Suskind, "when we act, we create our own reality." The next step for the editors of the National Review is a cleansing one: coming to terms with the fact that the strategy in Iraq, aimed at creating a Western style democracy in Iraq, and/or disarming enemies of weapons of mass destruction, and/or significantly impacting the war on terror to our benefit, and/or bringing a measure of stability to the region failed to achieve any of those things.
But we now know that the Editors of the National Review won't simply take a withdrawal plan enshrined by the SoFA which has received total buy-in from the military and slag it off as "defeatism" in a fit of pro-war purity. And that's a start.