Head for the Mountains

The President chose North Carolina’s Fort Bragg for his speech tonight, his sixth prime-team speech delivered from outside Washington, this one to extol the virtues of “staying the course” in Iraq. I certainly heard portions of it on the radio, and it took a number of minutes before it dawned on me that it was a live speech, and not a re-play of similar speeches he gave in 2002 and 2003 linking Iraq to the events of September 11th, extolling the “hard work” which would, inevitably be done by others while he derived political benefit from it.
But I was mistaken: it was, in fact, broadcast tonight. At least the President confirmed one thing: we will be cutting and running from Iraq commencing around this time next year. With a tepid call for military recruitment, the President tacitly acknowledged that the failures of the Army and the Marine Corps to meet their recruiting numbers is a more serious problem than he would otherwise let on. And with an insistence that giving a firm date for our leaving Iraq would be a mistake, he thereby confirmed that a major effort at drawdown must not merely be announced, but actually well under way by the 2006 Mid-term Congressional elections, or the GOP will likely lose one, if not both Houses of Congress.
Yes, the President announced initiatives like the partnering of Iraqi units with American ones and the vaunted success of the Iraqi elections and government (even as Iraq’s oldest legislator got knocked off, along with others, including American personnel, just ). Those things will continue. Indefinitely. Which is how long American troops will remain in Iraq. But not at the current 130,000 (give or take) level. Instead, look for a most serious force reduction down to, I would guess, the 30,000 level by the end of 2006 (those mid-terms again).
Don’t worry: it won’t be called anything like “operation cut and run”. However, the simple realities are that poll numbers are becoming untenable for continuing the current levels of carnage. Unfortunately, initiatives designed to get our media to stop reporting the carnage… just haven’t worked. Hence… what I said.
The President’s Saudi patrons need not concern themselves: the chaos and violence necessary to keep Iraqi oil production off-line for the next ten to fifteen years can just as effectively be managed with the reduced American deployment as with the current levels. And 30,000 U.S. troops (or thereabouts) should be just enough to prevent any kind of actual stability from emerging in Iraq… hey, the President himself just told us that the mission was hunting down terrorists in Iraq, and not stability, as we once thought… truth in advertising from the White House, perhaps?