There’s an opportunity here that neither campaign is seizing quite as effectively as they could. If the democratically elected Iraqi leadership is asking US troops to leave, that sure sounds like victory. I think the McCain camp is being far too defensive about this. McCain should be citing Maliki’s comments as evidence that the war is winnable, and that it isn’t an endless commitment. There’s an opportunity here to emphasize that Obama’s position has always been that we should withdraw regardless of whether it looks like defeat or like victory.
Conversely, Obama should start using the word “victory” when he talks about Iraq. If Obama has the guts to stiff the hard left, where it’s blasphemy to suggest that Iraq is winnable, he can make more ambivalent voters a lot more comfortable with him as a war leader at very little cost.
P.S. I realize that lots of people — particularly those skeptical of the prospects for stable Iraqi democracy — are worried that Maliki is too close to Iran. But there’s a case to be made that an honorable withdrawal frees our hand with Iran, at least in some ways. Fewer troops in Iraq mean fewer convenient American targets to retaliate against after a bombing run, after all.