Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates penned an op-ed this week to say it's time to negotiate "a basic framework for normalized relations with the Iraqi government." This, they wrote, will "set the basic parameters for the U.S. presence in Iraq," which must extend past 2008 "for progress in stabilizing Iraq to continue."
Has the administration's policy of "surge till they (Iraqis) merge" changed to "keep surging because they're not merging"? Unclear. At the same time, the new framework they envision will not set troop levels, make security commitments or authorize permanent bases in Iraq -- "something neither we nor Iraqis want," they added.
Me neither. U.S. forces should not ordinarily be engaged in nation-building -- sorry, nation-stabilizing -- nor should they ever be engaged in Sharia-nation-stabilizing, which is my core problem with our overall strategy in constitutionally Sharia-supreme Iraq as well as constitutionally Sharia-supreme Afghanistan (not to mention the constitutionally Sharia-supreme Palestinian Authority), but that's another column.
Meanwhile, Rice and Gates are calling for more of the same -- for U.S. "help" to fight Al Qaeda, develop Iraq's security forces and halt Iranian interference. After that? They write: "In addition, we seek to establish a basic framework for a strong relationship with Iraq, reflecting our shared political, economic, cultural and security interests."
If your next question is, "What 'shared' political, economic, cultural and security interests?" I second it. The only unanimous expression of Iraqi political will I know of was a parliamentary vote in favor of Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel. Economically speaking, Iraq is not only an increasingly enthusiastic OPEC player, it enforces the Arab boycott on Israel. And when it comes to "common" cultural interests, Iraq is, as mentioned above, a Sharia-supreme state where one writer was recently found guilty of "blasphemy." Given the Shiism Iraq shares with nuke-seeking Iran, how many security interests does that leave us in common?
Not that many. Maybe this accounts for the secretaries' flat tone of understatement regarding a U.S.-Iraq future. It certainly speaks to my own concern that when we finally walk away from "democratic" Iraq, we are unlikely to leave behind a staunch U.S. ally. If -- when? -- this comes to pass, what lessons will we take away?