Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bush to announce troop withdrawal

This is just going to be a quick posting on a breaking MSNBC News story I've been seeing tonight. From MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - President Bush will tell the nation Thursday evening he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 by next summer, but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.

In a prime-time television address Thursday at 9 p.m. ET, Bush will endorse the recommendations of his top general and top diplomat in Iraq, following their appearance at two days of hearings in Congress, administration officials said. The White House plans to issue a written status report on the “surge” on Friday, they said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush’s speech is not yet final. Bush was practicing the speech and putting the final touches on it even as the U.S. commanding general, David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker were presenting their arguments on Capitol Hill.

The reductions envisioned by the White House mirror those proposed by Petraeus and would leave approximately 130,000 U.S. troops on the ground by August 2008, roughly the same level that existed before Bush ordered the buildup early this year, the officials said. Now, there are 168,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

In the speech, the president will say he understands the deep concerns Americans have about U.S. involvement in Iraq and their desire to bring the troops home, they said. Bush will say that after hearing from Petraeus and Crocker, he has decided on a way forward that will reduce the number of troops but not abandon Iraq, according to the officials.

Some quick and dirty comments here. It is rather interesting that Bush has announced this troop withdrawal just after Petraeus gave his proposal through the congressional testimony. It is almost like the administration agreed with the military assessment of General David "Honest Lacky" Petraeus here.

I wouldn't count on it. I think what we're seeing here is a new Bush PR-campaign for continuing the war in Iraq. First, always remember that this Bush administration wants to continue this war until after President Bush leaves office in January 2009, and dumps this mess on his successor. Bush probably knows that a majority of the American public is against the war and wants some type of withdrawal timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. President Bush may not care about the American publics' opinions on Iraq. But the Bush White House is concerned about the Republican congressmen, and the pressure they are under for continuing to support this administration's war. In addition, this Bush administration is probably also realizing that they can not continue this troop surge for another year, otherwise the Army will start breaking down. That is a serious problem for President Bush, who needs to keep the war going until after he leaves office.

So how does this Bush White House get out of this predicament? By announcing a partial troop withdrawal. If President Bush announces a withdrawal of 30,000 troops, he essentially brings the number of troops back to its pre-surge levels. This could accomplish a number of Bush political goals here. First, President Bush could announce some type of "success" in Iraq, which would mean that the Pentagon doesn't need those extra 30,000 troops in Iraq and they could go home. By spinning this as a "victory" the Bush administration does not capitulate to the Democratic demands for troop withdrawals and timetables--even as they will initiate their troop withdrawal. In a sense, President Bush neutralizes the Democratic Party's main weapon in attacking both President Bush and the Republican Party over this Iraq war, that is bringing the troops home. All throughout 2008, President Bush and the Republicans can spin their PR-campaign that they are withdrawing U.S. troops--when in reality they are just withdrawing only 30,000 of them. Second, this partial withdrawal will give the Republican congressmen some breathing room, where they can both sell their support of this troop withdrawal to their constituents, while at the same time continue supporting the Bush administration's unending war. This was a problem for the Republicans, who face a worst-case re-election scenario in deciding whether to support the Bush administration's war, or face an angry constituency ready to vote them out in 2008. And the way this war is going, there could be enough Republicans willing to choose their political skins in supporting a veto-proof, Democratic, withdrawal timetable legislation. The last thing this Bush White House wants to see is a withdrawal timetable pass with a bipartisan, veto-proof majority. Finally this partial troop withdrawal gives some cover for President Bush, who can sell this to his Republican base in claiming that the U.S. is winning the Iraq war, while at the same time selling the partial withdrawal to moderates and independents, saying he has heard the American publics' opinion for getting out, and he is acceding to their wishes. In one sense, it is a pretty brilliant PR-campaign, and a political move for continuing this war for at least another year.

The problem for the country here is that President Bush will only withdrawal enough troops to bring the level of U.S. forces down to the pre-surge level. After that, don't expect any more troop withdrawals--unless such withdrawals are necessary to keep the military from breaking its back. We're looking at another Bush White House con job here to keep the war going, only now the war will continue at its pre-surge level of U.S. forces. What worries me here is whether the American public will see through this latest Bush White House con?

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