No admission was starker than his view that American troops will have to stay in Iraq until at least 2009, although he acknowledged that "future presidents and future governments of Iraq" ultimately will make the decision.
The president also said yesterday that:
* While he believes the war will be won, mistakes have been made and there is chaos on the ground, although he disagrees with people like Iraq's former interim president who say that Iraq is in civil war.
* The war is costing him dearly politically and until he can convince skeptical Americans that the U.S. is winning, it will overshadow everything he does.
Reaction to Bush's remarks, including his surprising 2009 withdrawal estimate, and a series of speeches that he is making to try to shore up support for the war has been muted, and notably so at conservative websites and blogs. I actually had a hard time culling enough reaction to put together this post.
I believe that this is a function of two things:
Anyhow, there was some reaction to the prez:
* The media and punditocracy is running out of new things to say. How many times can we be told that there were never enough troops. Or that there are enough troops. That there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Or that there is. And so on and so forth.
* A growing "Iraq fatigue," especially after the binge of third anniversary stories over the weekend. I know that I'm suffering from it.
First, from Yours Truly:
The president’s assessment that
troops will not be able to leave U.S. until at least 2009 is deeply disturbing. Iraq
While this assessment comports with the situation on the ground in
– an unbowed insurgency, repeated waves of sectarian revenge killings, an Iraqi army far from being ready for prime time, a coalition government that, at best, remains a work in progress, as well as increasing interference from Iran – it undercuts his assertion that real progress is being made. Iraq
Three more bloody years?
Having gotten us into this mess, I do agree with the president that the
can’t withdraw until the job is done, as nebulous as that goal may be. U.S.
But three more bloody years?
The Bush administration has painted itself into a very tight corner. It has shut off the money tap for most of the once ambitious Iraqi infrastructure rebuilding and other post-Saddam transitional programs, declaring in effect that Iraqis have to learn to put on their pants without
assistance when they get up in the morning. But how are they going to learn to do that, let alone be able to do that, if a U.S. military presence is required for three more bloody years? U.S.
The president himself now admits that he has expended what little political capital he took into his second term, which will make winning American hearts and minds difficult, if not impossible, especially with his acknowledgement that U.S. troops aren't going to be coming home anytime soon.
Three more bloody years!
The Washington Post in an editorial:
President Bush should hold more news conferences. In his hour-long exchange with reporters at the White House yesterday, he was considerably more effective in explaining and defending his commitment to the war in Iraq than in the three carefully worded speeches he has delivered in the past week. In his sometimes blunt, sometimes joking and sometimes unpolished way, he sounded authentic -- no more so than when he was asked what had become of the "political capital" he claimed after the 2004 election. "I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war," Mr. Bush replied.
And so he is. The president's approval ratings are low and sinking, and Iraq is the main cause: Polls show most Americans no longer believe the war is worth the cost or expect the "victory" Mr. Bush's speechwriters keep promising. Republicans in Congress have joined Democrats in pressing for a major withdrawal of U.S. troops this year. Even senior military commanders appear more interested in justifying that drawdown than in defeating Iraqi insurgents.
Anthony Cordesman, a military specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
The problem with the speeches is they get gradually more realistic, but they are still exercises in spin. They don't outline the risks. They don't create a climate where people trust what's being said.
The Wall Street Journal in an editorial:
We still believe victory in Iraq is possible, indeed likely, notwithstanding its costs and difficulties. But the desire among so many of our political elites to repudiate Mr. Bush and his foreign policy is creating a dangerous public pessimism that could yet lead to defeat -- a defeat whose price would be paid by all Americans, and for years to come.Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:
Three years into the war in Iraq, with that country now experiencing a low-grade civil war, it has become increasingly clear that President Bush is content with an open-ended commitment with no end in sight for our U.S. troops and taxpayers. . . .President Bush must accept that he has to change course, reject the notion of an open-ended commitment in Iraq, and finally develop the plan that allows our troops to begin to come home.
The Arizona Republic in an editorial:
The country needs a housecleaning at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There are more than 33 months left in the Bush administration. They need to be far more productive months than they have been of late.
David Corn in The Nation:
The San Francisco Chronicle:
The Nation -- In his Tuesday press conference, President Bush delivered the good news: "But I believe -- I believe the Iraqis -- this is a moment where the Iraqis had a chance to fall apart, and they didn't. And that's a positive development."
Not falling apart. That's hardly the prewar view of post-invasion Iraq Bush sold the American public three years ago. But "positive" has become a rather relative term regarding Iraq.
President Bush made the new and risky admission . . . that the war in Iraq might not end on his watch, a distinct tactical shift away from a relentless White House optimism that seems ever more at odds with the endless violence and news of disintegration from Iraq.
. . . Facing Nixonian poll numbers, growing credibility problems and splintering Republican support, Bush has begun taking critics head-on, accepting hostile questions and acknowledging setbacks while trying to muster public resolve to continue an unpopular war.