BRINGING THE TROOPS HOME….Garance Franke-Ruta suggests today that George Bush does have a plan to withdraw from Iraq. He just isn’t willing to admit it:

I wonder if what we’re in fact seeing is a White House strategy of maximizing harm to domestic political opponents (by continuing to cast them as peaceniks unwilling to defend America) while slowly bowing to public opinion (which has turned against the war)….A political strategy of using the next six to nine months to continue to paint the Democrats as weak on national security, to be followed by a declaration of success and public return of some significant fraction ? but not all ? troops in advance of the mid-term elections, to be followed in turn by attacks on anti-war Democrats who wanted the United States to pull out “too early” and before the job was done, doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility. After all, what other options does the administration have?

I’ll confess that I find it unusually hard to guess what’s on Bush’s mind here. On the one hand, there’s been a steadily increasing stream of evidence over the past couple of months that Bush would very much like to begin drawing down troops prior to the 2006 midterms. On the other hand, he’s also been crystal clear about his intention of staying until we defeat the insurgency. If that’s really the way he feels, there’s not much chance of reducing troop strength anytime soon.

Still, I’ve long believed that Bush is unlikely to risk his presidency over Iraq, so I suspect that Garance is right. As soon as he finds a convenient excuse, I imagine that Bush will declare that victory is in sight and begin bringing the troops home.