The Warner Effect

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Senator John Warner’s call for President Bush to begin a troop drawdown by Christmas is indeed a big development, given his influence and credibility with Senate Republicans and his stature within the party. But it is far from clear what kind of effect it will have in moving Republican votes on the issue in the Senate. While Warner will give his fellow Senators some political cover if they want take a more aggressive stance against the war–and those who are on the ballot next year may well want to–it’s as important to note what he isn’t saying as what he is. He is calling on the President to begin bringing the troops home, but still opposes the idea of Congress doing it. Also, the relatively small numbers that he is talking about are, by his own description, symbolic and not substantive.

What may have more impact is a development reported by Julian Barnes and Peter Spiegel in this morning’s Los Angeles Times:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half, potentially creating a rift with top White House officials and other military commanders over the course of the war.

Administration and military officials say Marine Gen. Peter Pace is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military. This assessment could collide with one being prepared by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, calling for the U.S. to maintain higher troop levels for 2008 and beyond.

UPDATE: A number of our commenters (P_Luk, Cfaller96, Mike … well, basically, all of them) take issue with my calling Warner’s statement a “big development.” And looking at the post above this one, even Joe does. Et tu, Joe? Okay, okay. It’s NOT a big development, at least not in terms of directly affecting the vote count after the Petraeus report. But it is pretty dramatic evidence of how isolated Bush is becoming, not only from the mainstream of public opinion on Iraq, but from the mainstream of his own party.