Reading USA Today today, I ran into a half-page of survey results on the topic which has become the Sutter's Mill of the polling industry, Iraq. And of course there were the specific questions regarding how soon the US should (A) cut and run, (B) withdraw our troops, (C) disengage militarily, or (D) strategically redeploy personnel, depending on your favorite euphemism for "get the hell out."
They polled both Americans and Iraqis, which seems thoughtful of them. 48 percent of us here in the states think we should pull out immediately or within a year, while 43 percent say we should "Withdraw but take as many years as needed," and if that makes any sense to you, then you're better at finding sense in self-cancelling statements than I am. Also, 9 percent of us think the situation would be improved by the presence of more Americans carrying guns.
As for the Iraqis, they're surprisingly far from unanimity on this subject, although, come to think of it, they seem to be characterized by an aversion to unanimity on most subjects. In any case, 37 percent want us out in six months, 34 percent within a year, 20 percent within two years, and again, there's a quirky 9 percent, which in this case wants us to stay until the "security situation is settled," which will be about the time my mother gets a gang tattoo.
The fact is, George Bush is not going to withdraw American troops to any significant degree as long as Saddam Hussein is alive. There were no WMDs. There's no democracy. No cheering crowds throwing flowers. No increase in homeland security. The deaths of some 2,800 US troops has accomplished only one item on the neocons' To Do list: they took out Saddam.
The hideous reality for the Bush Administration is that the minute our troops are gone, there will be nothing to stop the Iraqis or their ramshackle government, left to their own devices and desperate to salvage their country, from brokering some deal which would include Saddam not being executed. And to the White House, a live Saddam is an unthinkable Saddam. Even, in the worst-case-screaming-nightmare sense, a potential resurgent and triumphant Saddam. There would be then absolutely no aspect of Bush's Iraq war which was not a total failure. He would go, in history, from failed president to laughingstock. As long as Saddam lives on, so does our large-scale military presence.
As a corollary to this premise, here's a prediction: If Saddam has not been found guilty and executed by the time Bush's term of office is up, he will die--of natural causes, or choking on a pretzel, or spontaneous combustion--in custody.