The Plan

by digby

As the blogosphere has been saying for years now:

Bush policy to bequeath Iraq to successor

The president plans to end his term with a strong U.S. military in the country and leave the issue of exiting to his successor.

By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 11, 2007

WASHINGTON -- -- The talk in Washington on Monday was all about troop reductions, yet it also brought into sharp focus President Bush's plans to end his term with a strong U.S. military presence in Iraq, and to leave tough decisions about ending the unpopular war to his successor.

The plans outlined by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, would retain a large force in the country -- perhaps more than 100,000 troops -- when the time comes for Bush to move out of the White House in January 2009.

The plans also would allow Bush to live up to his pledge to the defining mission of his presidency, and perhaps to improve his chances for a decent legacy. He can say he left office pursuing a strategy that was having at least some success in suppressing violence, a claim that some historians may view sympathetically.

"Bush has found his exit strategy," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former government Mideast specialist now at the Brookings Institution. As Petraeus met with lawmakers and unveiled chart upon chart showing declining troop levels, the U.S. commander seemed to have opened a new discussion about how the United States would wind up its commitment to Iraq. Yet viewed more closely, his presentation, and that of U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, were better suited to the defense of an earlier strategy: "stay the course."


Crocker said nothing about reducing the U.S. commitment. Indeed, four years after Bush stood under a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished," Crocker said U.S. economic aid to Iraq, which had been in decline, would be broadened with a new infrastructure "trust fund" and an "Iraqi-American Enterprise Fund" to buy stock in new and reshaped Iraqi companies.

One State Department official recalled that before the 2003 invasion, Crocker "warned that it would probably take 10 years to stabilize Iraq. And that's about what it's going to take -- 10 years."

Bush's approach also gives some support to Republican allies on Capitol Hill who have been anxious about entering the 2008 election season carrying responsibility for the war.

Now the Republicans will be able to claim that the war is winding down and the troops coming home, even if fewer than 20% are scheduled to return in the next year.

Bush was even able to oblige Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who asked for a brigade to come home before Christmas.

But while Petraeus and Crocker made the administration's general goals clear, it left uncertain their thinking on a variety of key issues.


Those issues most likely will be left for the next president, whose new job is looking tougher all the time.

The question for me is why the Democratic leadership seems to think it's a good idea to punt and just allow Bush to do this. They will not benefit politically if they are not seen to have been doing everything they could to get Bush to end the occupation. In my view, the only way this works for them politically is to push as hard as possible. I just don't see how they can make the argument for change effectively otherwise. And perhaps more to the point of this article, I don't see how they can cleanly argue for historical purposes that they weren't complicit in keeping this war going far beyond the point where everyone knew it was a failure and the American people demanded withdrawal.

I keep getting the sense that the Dems are making this harder than it needs to be. The war and Bush are unpopular. It's not making the country more secure. It's costing the next generation's future. This isn't really a tough call --- they're fighting phantoms of the past.

And then, of course, there are all the dead bodies, American and Iraqi alike. It's sadly true that we may not be able to prevent Iraqi deaths when we withdraw. We don't know the future --- I fervently hope that the Iraq civil war will be short lived. But we do know that we can prevent a bunch of American deaths, deaths which would not happen if not for George W. Bush's need to save face.

There can be no greater waste of life than that. It isn't about national security or self-defense or even national "prestige" whatever that is. This war is being continued so that one man might have an opportunity to avoid embarrassment --- after he's dead. I can think of some things that might be more useless and immoral, but not many.