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Dropping Anchor Before the Captain Jumps Ship

In recent weeks, we've been treated to a new narrative for the war in Iraq. Many bloggers and pundits set about the task of explaining how the Korean model analogy just does not fit the dynamic of what is currently taking place there. Nonetheless, the Bushies seem adamant that we will be in Iraq for some time to come. But what shape that presence will take remains to be seen.

From WaPo:
U.S. military officials here are increasingly envisioning a "post-occupation" troop presence in Iraq that neither maintains current levels nor leads to a complete pullout, but aims for a smaller, longer-term force that would remain in the country for years.

This goal, drawn from recent interviews with more than 20 U.S. military officers and other officials here, including senior commanders, strategists and analysts, remains in the early planning stages. It is based on officials' assessment that a sharp drawdown of troops is likely to begin by the middle of next year, with roughly two-thirds of the current force of 150,000 moving out by late 2008 or early 2009. The questions officials are grappling with are not whether the U.S. presence will be cut, but how quickly, to what level and to what purpose...

Even as they focus on the realities in Iraq, officials here are also keeping an eye on Washington politics. Despite the talk in the U.S. capital that Petraeus has only until September to stabilize the situation in Iraq, some officers here are quietly suggesting that they really may have until Jan. 20, 2009 -- when President Bush leaves office -- to put the smaller, revised force in place. They doubt that Bush will pull the plug on the war or that Congress will ultimately force his hand.

Does make you wonder whatever happened to "they'll follow us home" doesn't it? Personally, I have no doubts that Bush would start to bring troops home prior to his departure if it meant salvaging some of this legacy. Perhaps the surge is in fact geared toward that goal. Increase the number of troops by just enough and for long enough that everyone forgets what the old numbers use to look like. It may sound like a cheap trick to pull but what will stand out in the minds of most Americans will be the scenes of soldiers being greeted by their loved ones on tarmacs across the nation. It will be feel good time for the lame duck and any GOPer within spitting distance is bound to get some runoff.

But it won't be feel good time for all, certainly not the soldiers still stationed there. Their war will still go on, only now they are left with fewer men and resources with which to fight it. And I also think this move to a decreased but long term presence is a way of anchoring the next president's legacy to his. No leader wants to be the one to "lose" a war. Bush's failure to end to his will be a shackle that drags down the next person to take over in 2009. Should that be a Democrat, all the better they be blamed for the aftermath.

(Filed at State of the Day, All Spin Zone, and Blognonymous)

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