Of all people in Washington awaiting President Bush making public his new plan on Iraq, Sen. John McCain must be among the most impatient. McCain’s support for Bush’s idea of "troop surge" might have made his presidential bid in 2008 a hostage of the administration’s ability to stabilize Iraq with additional troops deployment.
Now, McCain is trying to hedge his bets. In a yesterday’s op-ed in Washington Post, McCain insists that the surge "must be substantial, and it must be sustained." Specifically, McCain proposes "adding as many as five brigades in Baghdad … and one or two in Anbar province," placing the total number of troops at 20,000 – 30,000. He’s less specific about being "sustained," but it’s clear that any deployment for less than six months wouldn’t satisfy him.
It looks increasingly clear now that sending "as many as 20,000 U.S. troops" is exactly what Bush has in mind. The timetable for the deployment is still unknown, and that could be the last straw McCain would be catching at: should the deployment last for less than a year, McCain will claim that the "surge" implementation was botched up by the Bush administration.
Ironically, help may be on the way to McCain from an unexpected source: Congressional Democrats reportedly consider forcing Bush "to gain new Congressional authority before sending more troops to Iraq." Less viable option, denying funds for the new troop deployment, is also in discussion.
Could a happier outcome for McCain — Democrats denying America "victory" in Iraq — be even imagined?