My vast store of knowledge about the military/political situation in Iraq ended in May 2004 when I came home, and it wasn't that vast even when I was there.
I point that out to put myself squarely in the corner of people who say "I have no clue whether this is a good idea or not."
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, in what I read as an extremely diffident statement, "Going forward, we will work closely with the Iraqi government and their armed forces to help them continue to build a stronger and more prosperous country."
I spent a considerable amount of time on the phone yesterday with a friend in the Gulf region - the "Persian," not the "of Mexico" - who said with some conviction that the Iranians would be calling the shots in Iraq in short order.
He also pointed out that American businesses have large investments in Iraq and they may well see those investments turn to desert sand before long.
Any nation which hosts military personnel of another has signed a Status of Forces Agreement - SOFA. It lays out what those troops can and can't do; when they can and can't do it; and to whom.
There was reporting that the Iraqis refused to grant, under a SOFA, American forces immunity from prosecution for actions which, in a war situation, would be considered legal.
Ok. Rather than have our young men and women standing trial in Baghdad or Tikrit for defending themselves against an Iranian suicide bomber, let's bring them home.
The service members and their families are all for this pronouncement. From the days of the Roman legions soldiers have hated to be deployed.
In a MULLINGS marking the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks I recounted a two-thousand-year-old letter from a Roman soldier to his family complaining about being away from home, trying to communicate with people who speak in a strange tongue, living in an untenable climate while being offered food their mothers never heard of, much less prepared.
He was in what is now called ... England.
American service members will do what they're told to do because they are trained to follow orders and operate within a unit as part of that unit.
That goes for E-2 Privates as well as 0-9 Lieutenant Generals.
If the Commander-in-Chief says "Go to war" they will do everything necessary to get the personnel and matériel assembled and shipped to wherever the war is to be fought and fight it.
When the Commander-in-Chief says "The war is over" the units will pack up their cares and woes and head home.
We will soon know whether Iraq is able to fend for itself.
The important question which has to be asked is: Did President Obama declare V-I Day - Victory in Iraq - because he truly believes we have accomplished our mission there? Or did he declare a withdrawal of troops because his job approval numbers are dreadful?
It takes no political genius to understand that Obama has not closed Guantanamo, has not solved Afghanistan; and has approved the use of unmanned drone aircraft to rain death on America's enemies from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia.
The best fig leaf Obama had to offer to his Liberal base was to announce the withdrawal troops from Iraq, claiming the lack of an agreement on immunity from prosecution for U.S. soldiers.
Which, as Henry Kissinger was wont to say, "has the additional advantage of being the truth."
Iraq is site of one of the oldest centers of civilization on the planet. We have been mentoring the Iraqi government since 2003. Perhaps they have learned the lessons well enough to maintain order and stability without succumbing to undue influence from Iran.
I am rooting for the Iraqis.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the weak Panetta statement, to the SOFA with Iraq, to the Huffington Post piece on withdrawal of troops and to the expansion of the use of drone aircraft in Somalia. Also a Mullfoto of early morning across the Potomac River from yesterday and a Catchy Caption of the Day.