The news this morning that President Bush was going to announce troop reductions in Iraq seemed might have undermined a key strength of Obama's campaign by effectively removing the Iraq war as a point of contention for voters. The October surprise seemed to come a little early with Bush's announcement since many voters would likely be put at ease if they hear a drawdown is in the works, which allows John McCain to continue crowing about the surge's "success" and point to other, less pressing issues as we roll into the final eight weeks of the season. That is, of course, except that a draw down in Iraq is being counter balanced by a new sort of surge in Afghanistan...meaning folks likely ain't coming home for a while.
The AP reports this morning that President Bush will likely keep troops levels steady through the end of his term and is recommending a mere 8,000 withdrawn in February. Conservatives will trumpet this as a sign of success while liberals will see it as a delay tactic and further proof of Bush's bumbling in Iraq. Many headline readers will see it as a long sought light at the end of the tunnel and that helps John McCain politically. What they might not see is the fact that Bush is also calling up 4,500 troops to bolster forces in Afghanistan. So the actual draw down in the middle east is a scant 3,500 troops, which neither significantly decreases our presence in occupied Iraq nor does it likely provide enough support to complete the mission in mostly forgotten Afghanistan.
Barack Obama has long demanded withdrawal from Iraq (gradually at first and dependent on the situation on the ground) and a refocus on Afghanistan as the centerpiece to his middle east policy. Bush and McCain initially mocked such an idea as ceding to the "terrorists" and betraying the troops. I guess they've changed their mind on that and is it any coincidence it comes just two months before the election?
Of course it's hard to argue the point because this is what should have been done years ago, so how will Obama and the Democrats address the fact that a key policy strength has just been stolen from right under their noses?