Ever since Cheney remarked that he expected the US to draw down its force commitment in Iraq to 50,000 troops, in six months or so after the fall of Baghdad, I believe the US has been committed to this force level. There are a number of reasons to hold to this belief. The permanent military bases house that many soldiers. Barack Obama has been very cagy in the positions he's taken, speaking always of "combat troops." Iraq has no national defense force, no air power, no armor, no logistical capability, and I strongly doubt the country has a functional chain of command. The US foreign policy establishment would regard this endeavor as failed if the result were not an Iraq allied with the US government, which is impossible if the elections are actually free and open.
The Washington Post op-ed Joe Klein cites, penned by the joined at the hip Senate trio of McCain Lieberman and Graham includes this remark:
Based on our observations and consultations in Baghdad, we are optimistic that President-elect Obama will be able to fulfill a major step of his plan for withdrawal next year by redeploying U.S. combat forces from Iraq's cities while maintaining a residual force to train and mentor our Iraqi allies. We caution, however, that 2009 will be a pivotal year for Iraq, with provincial and then national elections whose secure and legitimate conduct depends on our continued engagement.
So here's what the Haass and Indyk had to say (my bold):
But the situation remains fragile, and the need to pursue a host of second-order tasks should preclude more than modest reductions in U.S. combat and support forces in Iraq through 2009. By mid-2010, however, the Obama administration should be able to reduce U.S. forces significantly, perhaps to half their pre-surge levels. This would be consistent with the accord governing the U.S. troop presence that is currently being negotiated by U.S. and Iraqi officials. In the meantime, the highest political priorities will be ensuring communal reconciliation and an equitable sharing of oil revenues. Diplomatically, as reconciliation gains traction, Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors will have to be persuaded to work with Baghdad's Shiite-led government.
Yep. We're still at 50,000 troops or so. So much for Iraq's sovereignty. 50,000 "residual" troops, with tanks and planes, "supporting" and "training" them is the goal, is certainly not what the majority of Americans, and a larger majority of Iraqis, would describe as withdrawing from Iraq.
And there's a special bonus! In order to keep Israel safe from Iran's still non-existent nuclear capability, a nuclear umbrella must be extended. And, to match fiction for fiction, Israel should be provided with an anti-ballistic missile system:
Preventive military action against Iran by either the United States or Israel is an unattractive option, given its risks and costs. But it needs to be examined carefully as a last-ditch alternative to the dangers of living with an Iranian bomb. To increase Israel's tolerance for extended diplomatic engagement, the U.S. government should bolster Israel's deterrent capabilities by providing an enhanced anti-ballistic-missile defense capability and a nuclear guarantee.
These people are completely insane. It's like walking into an updated version of Dr. Strangelove.
But the skinny is, yes, indeed, the occupation will continue. The over/under bet is still at 50,000. And Foreign Affairs will take the over.