The new Bush plan is very close to what the French and Germans have been asking for since the occupation began. Ideally, of course, constitutional authority and elections will coincide.
I'm as cynical as the next guy -- and it sure looks like the administration is caving to its critics (like it did in 2002 on the Homeland Security Department)...so I wonder if Karl Rove et al will soon be reframing it so that the original supporters are forced to oppose the idea?
That's what happened with the labor rule changes to Homeland Security.
Anyway, the key point concerns the legitimacy of the new government. If the Bush Pentagon hands the keys to Baghdad over to the westernized INC, administration critics should be up in arms. Those guys are not going to enjoy popular support.
Moreover, it is important to note that this is not going to get the administration off the hook for Iraq. US troops are going to remain in Iraq under some negotiated arrangement with the new local political authorities. Here's what the Secretary of Defense has to say:
"The time table or the way ahead that the (Iraqi) Governing Council has been describing relates to the governance aspects of the country and not to the security aspects," he said. "That's on a separate track."Obviously, US troops are still going to be potential targets for insurgents.
Rumsfeld said the United States continues to plan to rotate a new contingent of troops into Iraq next year, with no final pullout date set yet. Accelerating the political process will not affect military planning, he said.
"This has nothing to do with U.S. troops and coalition troops in Iraq," he said.
Then again, many critics think the US troops are targets because they represent illegitimate power. If the new Iraqi government is widely perceived as legitimate, then the attacks should diminish and that would be a good thing.
This story requires much more scrutiny in the months ahead. The devil, as they say, will be in the details.