Respectfully, you are not dealing with what I am saying, or even with the logical consequences of what you are conceding.
You say, “It’s always a balancing act, though, and maybe we’ve been too deferential to the Maliki government[.]“ My precise (and explicit) point is: We’ve been too deferential to the Maliki government.
Here’s the difference between us: I am saying outright: We’ve been too deferential to the Maliki government and we should do what we have to do regardless; you are acknowledging it’s possible that we’ve been too deferential to the Maliki government, which logically means you think there may be things we should do whether the Maliki government is in agreement or not. I’m not sensing a lot of daylight between those two positions.
When you say, “Maybe we have been too deferential to the Maliki government,” doesn’t that mean perhaps we’ve been resisting doing things we should be doing out of excessive respect/concern for the Maliki government? And if you think the things we’d otherwise be doing are along the lines of what I’ve argued we should be doing, how much difference is there between what I am saying and what you are not quite saying?
I am also admittedly aggressive about what our interests are. But that’s because I’ve always thought the reason we sent our military to Iraq was a natural extension of the war on terror — i.e., as part of the campaign to defeat militant Islam. Propping up popularly elected new regimes is not unrelated to that goal, but it is decidedly subordinate. (Not to be a broken record, but the president has not made the case that popularly elected governments — much less democracies — in the Middle East will root out militant Islam.) I am not interested in scaling down expectations to something that can be achieved so we can declare a political victory. I want real victory, which is what I thought we got in this for. If militant Islam gets a net gain — i.e., if we leave Iraq (a) without defeating al Qaeda and (b) having shown Iran and Syria that terror promotion has no consequences — then Iraq is a loss for us, regardless of whether we leave it with a stable government.
As a result, in the balancing of priorities that has to be done, I’m less interested in the new Iraqi government than I am with victory in the war on terror over militant Islam. That doesn’t mean I’m uninterested in the new Iraqi government. I just don’t think it’s as important as destroying al Qaeda and deposing its state sponsors. That I draw the line in a different place doesn’t mean I fail to see there is a line.