When the Democrats dropped the ball on getting out of Iraq, it looks as they really may have screwed their chances for a definitive 2008 win. The big winners are bound to be international oil companies and the ballooning defense industries.
The White House is playing bait and switch. According to a New York Times report today, a report based on leaks from "senior administration officials," there's a new game plan in the White House.
The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.
Let's look at this scenario. First, the Democrats drop the ball:
Looking back, the critical moment came when the Bush administration rejected the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report. At that point, handed the perfect bipartisan opportunity to demand negotiation and withdrawal, the Democrats stumbled, saying nothing of consequence. And Bush seized the initiative again with his announcement of a "surge."
So the war continues -- even gets more "bloody" -- until anothing deciding point in September. Assuming we can count on a fairly hope-filled assessment from David Petraeus in September, a time when we will be reminded of Al Qaeda and 9/11 in an effort for keeping the Democrats at bay again, the war will go on through the beginning of election season. Then in the spring of 2008...
...a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.
That puts a pullback right in the middle of a general election campaign, with the White House -- far from being on the run -- apparently fully in command.
Part of this plan is due to pressure from both the Secretary of State and top brass at the Pentagon. It's a plan in which, apparently, the "commanders in the field" have had no input. Bush and others in the administration have been referring in the past week or so to the Iraq Study Group's report, hinting that it may be the basis for this change.
Officials say proponents of reducing the troops and scaling back their mission next year appear to include Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They have been joined by generals at the Pentagon and elsewhere who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations.
Cheney may not go along with the plan.
What's hatching is a plan to keep the US in Iraq for a long time, albeit at reduced strength.
Missing from much of the current discussion is talk about the success of democracy in Iraq, officials say, or even of the passage of reconciliation measures that Mr. Bush said in January that the troop increase would allow to take place. In interviews, many senior administration and military officials said they now doubted that those political gains, even if achieved, would significantly reduce the violence.
The officials cautioned that no firm plans have emerged from the discussions. But they said the proposals being developed envision a far smaller but long-term American presence, centering on three or four large bases around Iraq. Mr. Bush has told recent visitors to the White House that he was seeking a model similar to the American presence in South Korea.
Presumably those four large bases are the American bases built early in the invasion. From the very start many of us have been suspicious of their purpose: they are huge, they represent a huge investment, and they are clearly there for the purpose of anchoring US troops in Iraq for a long, long time. The following is an excerpt from a report in August 2005 when many were noticing that the Bush administration refused to deny that it had long term plans for Iraq.
Persistent reports that the US is constructing permanent bases in Iraq lend credence to the view that the Bush administration plans to stay. The Chicago Tribune reported in March 2004 that the US was building 14 "enduring" bases in Iraq, and the Washington Post reported in May that US forces would eventually be consolidated into four large, permanent air bases.
Erik Leaver, of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and a long-time proponent of a promise to close US military bases, told Asia Times Online that the kind of construction taking place belies statements from President George W Bush that the US only intends to stay "as long as necessary and not one day more", as Bush said on April 13, 2004. Not only are ammunition dumps and concrete runways and roads being built, he said, but so is long-term housing for US troops.
Certainly the "enduring bases" will be very useful for particular funders of the Republican Party and, let's face it, the Democrats as well.
The political maneuvers in Congress mimicking an effort to get us out of Iraq are just so much sword-play.