On the wall of the marines' conference room hangs a sign quoting Lawrence of Arabia. "Better the Arabs do it tolerably than you do it perfectly," it reads in part. "It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them . . . . " Abizaid drove home the same point. "The hardest thing your successors need to do is take their hand off the wheel. What we have to do is set the Iraqis in front to fight the insurgency," he told the marines. "The insurgency will go on long past the time we are gone."
The above quote (hat tip Discarded Lies) should be emblazoned on the standing orders of every American in Iraq! We need to plan on the Iraqis succeeding in forming a new democratic, constitutional government in elections this November, and then American forces leaving for home with the intent to be home by Christmas. That should be our explicit plan. We can always modify the plan to extend the tours of our forces there if something goes wrong. But planning on keeping our original war plan will build confidence that we keep to our word, put pressure on the Iraqis to settle their differences while we are still there, and totally undermine the perception that we intend to be an occupying power. It would tend to become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Operation Magic Carpet was the program to bring our troops home from Japan after the surrender in September 1945. We should begin planning a similar program to bring our troops home from Iraq in late November to early December 2005.
P.S. We can always include an option to "retreat" through Iran, if things don't go well at the UN!