26 November, 2005

War is over.

By the time you read this, every blog on earth will be quoting this story. But anyway: LA Times says the war is over. Bush is "cutting and running," to paraphrase Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio). The timing was almost precisely predictable. Actually he's a month late.

In July, the generals briefed Congress on the military's status in Iraq. While no members would tell me what the generals said in closed session I had multiple conversations with them and I listened carefully to their questions in open session. It was clear that the generals had warned them that "the wheels will start coming off" of the effort in October, as the number of American troops available to serve and amount of materiel in working order in the battlefield dropped below the numbers that the Executive Branch had ordered. They saw that enough troops were retiring, getting injured, dying, and at least taking time back home with the kids, that there wouldn't be enough to keep 160,000 in the field. Sure enough:
President Bush will give a major speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in which aides say he is expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces...

The developments seemed to lay the groundwork for potentially large withdrawals in 2006 and 2007, consistent with scenarios outlined by Pentagon planners...

Some analysts say the emerging consensus might have less to do with conditions in Iraq than the deployment's long-term strain on the U.S. military..."
The midterm elections are apparently a worry, as well.
A former top Pentagon official who served during Bush's first term said he believed there was a "growing consensus" on withdrawing about 40,000 troops before next year's congressional election. That would be followed by further substantial pullouts in 2007 if it became clear that Iraqi forces could contain the insurgency.
If this is true, it will be the first time since at least 1990 that midterms serve as an excuse to end a war, rather than starting one. Then again, the withdrawal could be tactical -- maybe they just need the manpower for another invasion.

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