Is Joshua Micah Marshall actually surprised that, according to an article in today's Washington Post, "senior officials" in the Bush administration are advocating "a quick exit" from Iraq? There have been hints of this for a couple of weeks. In a story filed on April 8 -- before the big statue fell -- R. W. Apple in The New York Times quoted the president hinting at a quick, hands-off transition to Iraqi self-government:
"I hear a lot of talk here about how, you know, we're going to impose this leader or that leader," the president declared, as he and Mr. Blair stood behind a pair of lecterns. "Forget it. From day one we have said the Iraqi people are capable of running their own country. That's what we believe. The position of the United States of America is, the Iraqis are plenty capable of running Iraq, and that's precisely what's going to happen."...
"People in Iraq will know we mean what we say when we talk about freedom."
At roughly the same time, Donald Rumsfeld was quoted as saying, "The United States is not going to stay in that country and occupy it."
And, of course, late last week, the neocons' favorite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi, predicted quite a rapid transition to Iraqi self-government:
Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi, in his first public appearance in Baghdad, said Friday that he expects an Iraqi interim authority to take over most government functions from the U.S. military in "a matter of weeks rather than months."
...Chalabi said that once such an authority is established, the U.S. military will have three functions here: to eradicate any weapons of mass destruction, to dismantle the ousted regime's "apparatus of terror," and to disarm the previous regime's army.
Discussing the immediate future, Chalabi said he foresaw "first reconstruction of basic services, done by Jay Garner," the retired American general, designated to run the military administration. "I expect this stage to take a few weeks."
After that, he said, "an Iraqi interim authority will be chosen by Iraqis and take over the business of governing." ...
And, of course, as Cursor points out, the oft-repeated line from the administration is that U.S. troops will stay in the country "not one day longer" than necessary.
If the Bushies do cut and run, what would be the downside? A quick exit means they get to rebut charges that they're building a Middle East empire (even as U.S. firms get the rebuilding contracts and the U.S. military establishes long-term access to Iraqi military bases). More important, the sooner they get out, the easier it will be to avoid being associated with any Iraqi failure to build a thriving, prosperous democratic society -- instead, they'll get to blame any future problems on the Iraqis themselves. Worst case, we invade again. Nation-building would be the real quagmire -- it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Bushies would want to avoid it.