Hilzoy has written a number of times about how Maliki's various (and varying) statements are a big problem for McCain. Maybe she's right, but, to me, that's not the real story. The real story is simpler but less evident. The real story is that viewpoints on Iraq are converging. Obama and McCain have different talking points and different emphases, but they are saying essentially the same thing -- and it's nearly the same as Maliki's most recent position.
Obama: We should redeploy most combat brigades by summer of 2010, unless conditions in Iraq dictate otherwise. We should also leave a residual force.
McCain: We should let conditions in Iraq dictate what we do, but conditions right now are getting better and thus becoming more favorable to redeploymet. But we should leave a residual force. [UPDATE: See also here, McCain's Op-Ed column that the New York Times refuses to run (via Drudge).]
Maliki's government: "We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq," al-Dabbagh told reporters, noting that any withdrawal plan was subject to change if the level of violence kicks up again." (Maliki's government has consistently failed to mention a residual force - the potentially significant departure that we'll ignore for the moment.)
And, to the extent Obama or McCain say they are listening to the U.S. military (and both do), it agrees that improvements in Iraq support redeployment -- at least at present.
I realize that there are clear differences in tone and emphasis between McCain and Obama. One also can surely argue over who is most likely to deliver on a promise to remove troops from Iraq. Maybe there's a further argument that Obama and McCain define "victory" differently -- McCain supposedly defines "victory" as a functioning Iraqi democracy while Obama uses a lower standard -- although the fact that McCain has not tied troop withdrawals to political changes in Iraq tends to undercut it.
At bottom, is "yes, but" really different from "but, yes"? Are these contrary positions, or variations on the same theme? Seems to me the latter. As Commentator Model 62 notes, "Everybody's finally on board with the ISG Report."
The real debate, it turned out, was whether is was wise to precede the ISG Report with the surge -- a question that remains open. (Yours truly originally opposed the surge on pragmatic grounds; tho' there have been hopeful signs & I would be pleased to concede error.)
By the way: (1) I don't want to wade into the muddy waters of whether Maliki's statement has changed over the last 48-72 hours. That's been (being) amply debated on other threads. (2) Thanks to Ian MacKaye and Fugazi for the title and the lyrics. [UPDATE 2-3: Deleted lyrics; made nonsubstantive edits.]
UPDATE 4: I'm accused of writing a post that is "inane" and parrots the conventional wisdom to such an extent that it's "anodyne." (But it's not "prissy" or "unrealistic," thank God!) Fair enough! Would a kind commentator -- perhaps even the authors of these criticisms -- identify a post or article arguing that the current Obama-McCain-Maliki spat represents a convergence of their views rather than, say, a case of Maliki favoring Obama's view over McCain's (or vise versa)? I'd be happy to link it.
Of course, providing a link contributes to the "infernal LinkOrama", so you will have to weigh your opposition to Hell against your need to support your claims.