PERPETUAL WAR. Another bizarre Bush press conference led off the week followed by another great column by Fred Kaplan. Something I note in the text of the article that Kaplan doesn't make a big deal about, though, is Bush's statement that "We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president."
Bush has said this or the equivalent several times, but it doesn't seem to have sunken in with people. On NPR this morning, I heard some talk about troop levels and discussion of when those levels might be reduced. But the answer, as you can see plainly if you pay attention, is not until someone else is in the White House at the earliest. Nevertheless, a week and a half ago, I found myself debating this point with a basically sympathetic radio host as if there was some serious doubt as to what Bush was planning. But he says it himself every once in a while -- his plan is to keep the troops there throughout the duration of his presidency, and any like-minded successor will just keep on keeping them there (that's why they call the permanent bases "permanent"). In some ways it's a welcome sign that, though Bush completely fails to grasp the prevailing civil war dynamic, he's finally come to grips with the foolish and paradoxical nature of his earlier counterinsurgency strategy, which held that we could leave Iraq if and only if we first defeated armed forces whose goal was to . . . make us leave Iraq. It was oddly circular and by explicitly endorsing occupation-without-end Bush has neatly wrapped up the package.
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