And it's true -- the security gains of the past year do make the Bush/McCain strategy of perpetual military entanglement in Iraq look a lot more viable than it looked a year ago. But it's also true that the security gains of the past year make a strategy of leaving Iraq look a lot more viable than it looked a year ago.
So the obvious answer is do both: draw down our forces at our pleasure, gradually leaving a reasonably inexpensive remainder in place which everyone will eventually forget about. This hardly sounds like imperialism to me. It sounds like my longstanding strategy of ninja-like withdrawal, swift, silent stages of withdrawal at times and places of our choosing. The problem of course is that for the pro-'entanglement' people, military entanglement (large numbers, heavy footprint) is just a means to, or a prop for, political entanglement. That sounds a lot more like empire. And anti-'entanglement' people want to pull up military stakes primarily because they want to pull political stakes. Leaving a relatively cheap 30 or 40,000 troops behind is unacceptable for them insofar as also left behind is the world's largest embassy and a whole network of client-patron relationships managed from Washington and designed to keep Iraqi sovereignty contingent upon US desires and profits (or those of its ruling cliques). Be that as it may, I find it key to emphasize how there need not be any connection between a residual military presence and a massive political (or, um, economic) presence. Nor does this have to be a naive approach, although it can be. The question then would shift to why a residual military presence is worth the extra work of ensuring that it doesn't come along with quasi-imperial political and economic entanglement/exploitation. But I'm still of the mind that some types of political and economic influence are pretty benign, boring, and useful, whereas others are really bad, exhausting, and more trouble than they're worth. And I bet that either a McCain or an Obama occupation -- which we'll see for at least a little while, and probably a longer while -- will strengthen my suspicion that the US is headed toward the benign/boring/useful side of things.But see Noah.