A MARCH SURPRISE?….This is a little bit of an open thread. Yesterday Megan McArdle wrote a column in which she said this:

There are actually rumors that the White House is contemplating accelerating our departure, which seems lunatic to even discuss when the country doesn’t appear to have a functioning anything.

That sounded odd to me. I’m hardly one to give this administration the benefit of the doubt, but I haven’t heard anything from either Bush or his advisors that makes me think they’re planning on pulling out of Iraq. So what’s up?

Just to make my thoughts crystal clear: it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bushies declared victory and started pulling out early next year. Unlike Bush’s admirers, I view him as a strongly poll-driven man who undertakes only policies that he thinks are widely popular and risk free. If public support for Iraq goes in the tank, I think he’s the kind of person who would indeed cut and run.

But that’s just psychoanalysis. I don’t have any evidence that they’re really thinking along these lines.

But then this morning, almost like magic, I came across this story in The Hill, which makes it sound like Republicans are getting very nervous indeed about the war, and this post by Josh Marshall in which he says that fear of an early withdrawal is widespread among both Democrats and hawkish conservatives. So obviously something is going on, and the idea of an early pullback from Iraq is Topic A among Washington insiders at the moment.

I’m still not sure myself. There are certainly a lot of reasons to suspect that the administration is thinking of withdrawing: declining public support, increasing fatalities, growing fear that we can’t win a long-term guerrilla war, and mounting strain on the military, especially around March of next year when troop rotations will reduce our strength in Iraq whether we like it or not.

Is there more to it than that? I haven’t seen any evidence either in the form of statements or leaks from administration officials or leaks of secret plans for an early withdrawal. What does everyone in Washington think they know that I don’t?

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