Bush’s Modified Limited Pullout

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Which version of Bush on Iraq will we get tonight? Will it be the standard-issue President who always sees that wrecked country, and the U.S. mission there, in various stages of progress, and who dismisses those who see otherwise as naysayers? Or will he adopt the tone he used in January of this year, when he actually acknowledged that the situation in Iraq was “unacceptable”?

You already know the answer! “We’re making progress in Iraq” will surely be the main theme, followed closely by the accusation that those who favor a rapid drawdown are wrong, weak and (implicitly) anti-American.

Then he’ll tell the country how he is, in fact, withdrawing troops from Iraq — but doing so from a position of strength rather than weakness. He won’t mention that he has little choice but to reduce force size in Iraq to pre-surge levels by next summer, lest the strain caused by extended tours and shortened home stays causes the Army to break.

Because there aren’t the votes in the Senate to overcome a veto (or even, at the moment, a filibuster) of any legislation forcing a faster drawdown, the bottom line seems to be this: U.S. troop levels in Iraq will remain high — i.e., well above 100,000 — through 2008, at which point the war becomes the next president’s problem.