So what’s his plan? The political logic of saying “pulling out . . . is unfathomable” is clear to me. It’s centrist, hawkish, tough, etc. But where’s the substance to the criticism? If you ask me, this is a big part of the Democrats’ national security problem ? the adoption of rhetorical stances that are very clearly driven more by political calculation than by genuinely belief in the merits of the view.
Well, sure. On the other hand, as Marshall points out, George Bush’s rhetorical stance is that democracy is on the march and 138,000 troops are more than enough to get the job done in Iraq. He knows perfectly well this isn’t true, but in public he just smirks and says that he’d be happy to send more troops over if any of his generals asked for them.
This is every bit as driven by political calculation as anything Democrats are saying. The only difference is that it doesn’t sound as calculated, and this is the genius of George Bush. He’s one of the shrewdest politicians to inhabit the Oval Office in a long time, but he doesn’t sound like he’s being shrewd. He sounds like he really believes that our current troop strength is perfectly adequate.
So what’s the answer? As Juan Cole says, “Sometimes You are Just Screwed.” Bush knows near term success is impossible with current troop levels, just as he knows that his economic policies are unsustainable as well. In both cases, he seems to be hoping only that he can avoid disaster during the next three years and then hand off both problems to his successor in 2009 while he retires to the ranch. Politics doesn’t get much more cynical than that.