The revelation that Gordon Brown has had no contact with the United States since his meeting with Dubya Bush at Camp David is the first and strongest sign that the 'special relationship' is now entering a period of permafrost until the election of a new President. Miliband's declaration that there will not be a timetable for withdrawal from Basra was directed at a number of constituencies: attacking the Liberal Democrats and their opportunistic casting for votes in the Basra scuttle; flanking the Ministry of Defence that is trying to avoid the problems of overstretch; and, most remarkably of all, quashing any thought of co-operation with the UK's only ally in Iraq, the United States.
The irresponsible statement that the withdrawal will be undertaken primarily for Brown's political convenience (tarted up as the 'national interest'), rather than in lockstep with his ally or at the behest of the Iraqi security forces, brings us to the heart of the dilemma. The government is very conscious of the unpopular price being paid by the armed forces with a knock-on effect in the polls, yet they cannot abrogate their responsibilities to Iraq or the United States. All they can do is shiver, dither, and watch more soldiers die due to underfunding and an uncertain exit strategy.