President Bush has made it clear on numerous times that the decision to leave Iraq will be a decision left for the next president. There will easily be 120,000 U.S. troops in the country come January 2009. This was only reinfoced by last night’s speech, where Bush essentially said he would run the current troop surge (169,000 troops) to July, three months longer than most experts claimed it was sustainable. He’s squeezing it as long as he can, and then some.
In January of ’09, while the next president is being sworn in here in the U.S., we’ll have another round of elections in Iraq. The last elections were in January ’05, and we surged, then, too: to about 160,000 troops to maintain security and allow Iraqis to vote.
Following up on an earlier post, where I referred to the fact that Sunni turnout in those elections was abysmally low, it seems like the best hope for Iraq is to hold out until that 2009 election, when the Sunnis will hopefully participate in greater numbers and create a more representative parliament. The recent collapse of the much-needed national oil law is further proof that all parties are in a stalemate until a new election brings a new government.
Given all that, I think it’s fair to expect Surge II: Baghdad Bugaloo sometime in advance of the 2009 elections and coinciding with Bush’s exit from office. It’s pretty clear that the Democrats aren’t going to do anything to try and end the war before than, so that’s where we stand. Hope is now, officially, the plan.