Because they’re so conscientious, you see. Their Iraq plate’s piled high with “difficult issues,” like whether to withdraw now or six months from now.

As Kos never says: in division there is strength.

“Although unity is important it is not the most important value. It is, I think, a tribute to the Democratic Party at this moment in time that we are honestly and openly struggling with a lot of the difficult issues facing our country,” Clinton, D-N.Y., told the New Democrat Network…

“I think we come out more united,” said Clinton. “We’re not blindly united like the other side is, where they are like the three monkeys, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak no Evil. They’re not going to say anything negative about the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense or anybody else.”

What they’re really struggling with is trying to find a policy that’s defeatist enough to satisfy their nutroots base while not so defeatist that it alienates the majority before the midterms. That was the point of that dueling banjos routine between the Kerry and Levin withdrawal proposals earlier this week. It has nothing to do what the most effective strategy for Iraq is; it’s pure politics, and supremely cynical.

The Dems aren’t the only ones who want a timetable, though. According to the Times of London, Nouri al-Maliki’s amnesty offer to the Sunni jihadis calls for the same thing. Not the very same: there’s an enormous difference between the U.S. withdrawing under fire from a failure of will versus withdrawing at the request of a sovereign government that’s seeking to assert its sovereignty. It’s night and day prestige-wise — but as a tactical matter, it’s dusk and early evening. If the peace deal results in most terrorists laying down their arms, then the timetable is harmless; if it doesn’t (and it well may not, as it’s hard to tell how many jihadis are actually being represented in these negotiations), then all you’ve accomplished with a timetable is having telegraphed your maneuvers. Moreover, as Captain Ed says,

Talabani’s offer seems a bit naive, especially regarding the Ba’athists. Never known for their love of democracy, they have always wanted nothing more than a Stalinist regime to run Iraq, just as it did under Saddam and as their cousins still do in Syria with the Assad regime. The best-funded and best-resourced of the insurgencies would not surrender lightly just to join a multiparty representative government. One has to think that the Ba’athists just want to play for time so that they can wait for another chance to take power through assassination rather than an insurgency that obviously has little chance of progress.

Presumably Maliki and Khalilzad think they’re going to knock out most of the terrorist opposition by getting the Sunnis to sign off on this, because if not, they’re going to be stuck with roughly the same problem they have now but with a timetable of U.S. withdrawals on top of it. Call it “the Murtha scenario.” I guess he/we could back out of the deal and cancel the timetable if it turns out that only a small number of fighters quit the insurgency as a result. But that’d be hugely demoralizing for Iraqis, not to mention a major embarrassment for Maliki himself. Hope he knows what he’s doing.

The other point of contention is the amnesty for Sunni jihadis. I said my piece about that here; a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq writing today in the L.A. Times thinks differently.

As for Murtha: it’s time.

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