SOME INTERESTING REPORTS FROM IRAQ, via Maj. Sean Bannion and John Burns. Both, in different ways, raise the specter of the United States leaving Iraq too soon.

I’d be very upset, to put it mildly, if we cut and run. However, I don’t think that’s what’s going on. Rumsfeld says the troops aren’t coming out — this is just about Iraqi self-determination. That’s a key distinction. (We’re still in Germany, and they’re self-governing, after all.) And it was just announced that the Civil Affairs battalion here — which spent quite a while in Afghanistan and Bosnia — is going to Iraq in February. Doesn’t sound like a cut-and-run to me. The extent to which Iraqis are ready to actually run their country is another question. But, you know, Russia was a mess (and remains one) after the fall of the Soviet Union, for many of the same reasons. But it’s still better the way it is, for them and for us. So it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just good enough. The problems that Bannion describes remind me of Nigeria, which isn’t a great place, but it’s better than a lot of countries in Africa. Likewise, Iraq isn’t a great place, but it’s better already than a lot of countries in the mideast, and it’s on the path to improvement. Given the enormous damage to the physical — and especially the social — capital of the country done by decades of dictatorship, that’s good enough.

Looking at the domestic scene, and at the risk of sounding too much like a real pundit, I have to wonder about the nature of this announcement. It seems to me that Bush is managing to maneuver his critics into complaining about pulling out too soon, which will have the effect of taking the war off the table as an election issue. This occurred to me when I got the following email:

I just finished watching an interview with Tom Daschle on Fox News Sunday, and when asked about the speeding up of the end of occupation in Iraq, Daschle responded “What we need is not an exit strategy, but a plan for success” and went on to say why we should not leave too early.

Hmm. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? [LATER: Here’s a link to the transcript, which does indeed bear this out. Daschle is calling for more troops and more resources, though he also wants the French and Germans in.]

For some deeper perspective on cultural issues — echoing some of the things that Bannion says — I highly recommend this interview with P.J. O’Rourke in The Atlantic. And regarding the bigger picture, ponder on the question I asked earlier: Is it 1946? Or 1943?

UPDATE: Here’s the text of the transitional agreement. And this doesn’t sound like a cut-and-run.

ANOTHER UPDATE: BSC says it’s 1862 — and, in another post, notes that we’ve been in Kosovo for quite a few years now.