A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL, IMPERIALISM. I hate to ruin a good suggestion about political messaging with a lefty observation that Democrats should arguably refrain from making, but I think Josh Marshall is mistaken about this:

Let's work through a bit of this. If the president had a plan for success he would say, 'I plan to get X, Y and Z done and then we're going to bring American troops back home. I expect those three things will be accomplished by the middle of 2007.' Or maybe he'd say 2008 or the beginning of 2009.

But he doesn't say any of those things. When he says we're staying in Iraq as long as he's in the White House he makes clear that he doesn't have any plan other than staying in Iraq. Other than staying their indefinitiely or basically forever. Isn't it possible his 'plan' could work and have us out in 2008? Obviously, he's discounted that possibility because, again, he has no plan.

Bush has a plan for Iraq all right, and it's trouble with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "P," which stands for "permanent bases". That's the reason he won't even make a vague promise to bring the troops home by Christmas (or whatever). That also explains the curious phenomenon by which the administration keeps hinting at troop withdrawals but insisting that the withdrawals must never have an endpoint. The plan is to withdraw troops -- most of them -- and leave the rest there . . . forever.

Note the existence of the "Iraqi" secret police force funded and controlled by the CIA. Note that the Iraqi military isn't being given the sort of training or equipment that would allow it to deter or defeat foreign armies.

For some reason, the media seems to view discussion of this matter as too indelicate to permit. But, obviously, the United States military has a long history of showing up places and then not really leaving. No doubt, administration officials would site Germany, South Korea, and Japan as the relevant precedents. I would argue that we're more looking at a case like Subic Bay, Guantanamo, or Puerto Rico -- all the spoils of our war with Spain. Obviously, we're not going to annex Iraq the way we did the Philippines, but I think Cuba is probably the relevant precedent. There's not going to be a Platt Amendment but one should keep in mind the point that Iraq's current prime minister owes his office largely to the United States vetoing his predecessor's re-nomination.

--Matthew Yglesias

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