The developments over the last few days with Al-Maliki suggest that Republicans are at some point soon going to have to begin incorporating withdrawal into their lexicon. That's because we're winning. And a big reason why we're winning is John McCain.
The only reason that Obama can talk about 16 months and not sound radical is because the surge has worked. The situation doesn't seem as urgent as it once did. In fact, Iraq doesn't figure very much in the public's angst anymore.
At some point, this debate is going to have to stop being retrospective (where were you on the surge?) and start being about you draw down troops and still preserve the security gains that came from the surge John McCain fought for.
There is a danger, to the extent we are seen as turning the corner, that Obama could align himself with a sense of rising optimism on Iraq through calls for withdrawal. And anyone suggesting an open-ended commitment could come to be seen as the pessimists, a role reversal from the last five years. The public's reasoning will no longer be, "It's hopeless, so we must withdraw." It could be, "We're winning, so we can safely withdraw."
And before I get catcalls on this, remember that John McCain sees an end date: 2013. So this is something we're going to have to begin preparing for.
What can we do to make sure that the debate is one of "draw down and win" vs. "precipitously withdraw and lose?"