Today's New York Times bottom-lines the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker:
"[They] conceded Tuesday that the Bush administration's overall strategy in Iraq would remain largely unchanged after the temporary increase in American forces is over next summer, and made clear their view that the United States would need a major troop presence in Iraq for years to come."
This is no surprise. Petraeus' team has consistently said -- in February, June, July and August -- that the "average" counterinsurgency effort takes about 10 years, clearly indicating that's his expectation for his current mission.
(And that doesn't even address the fundamentally destabilizing permanent military bases the Bush administration has said it plans to maintain in Iraq.)
By my count, there are 11 Senate Republicans who have tried to appear critical of Bush's occupation -- in addition to the four GOP senators who did not filibuster the last Democratic attempt to mandate a real troop redeployment.
Seven more GOP senators are needed to ensure an up-or-down vote on such a plan, despite the fact that it already has majority support in Congress and among the public.
Those 11 are: Alexander (Tenn.), Coleman (Minn.), Domenici (N.M.), Lugar (Ind.), McConnell (Ky.), Murkowski (Alaska), Sessions (Ala.), Specter (Penn.), Sununu (N.H.), Warner (Va.) and Voinovich (Ohio).
A 12th, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (N.C), inched away from Bush yesterday, according to the Washington Post: "Even ... Dole ... a mainstream conservative who has never publicly strayed from the administration's position on Iraq, made it clear that she would now support 'what some have called action-forcing measures.'"
But none of them appear primed to substantively break from Bush and vote with Democrats on a real withdrawal, only to support a toothless compromise bill and perpetuate the fiction that they are war critics.
As the NYT reports: "some key Republicans said Tuesday that they would still pursue a shift of mission [but] they appeared unlikely to join Democrats in trying to set a fixed deadline for withdrawal."
And Senate Minority Leader McConnell expressed support for Alexander's "compromise" bill because, according to CQ, "it calls for a long-term military presence in the Middle East."
This is also not surprising.
Their earlier statements demanding major political progress in Iraq (like Coleman's, "There is a sense that by September, you've got to see real action on the part of Iraqis") in effect only demanded better PR about progress in Iraq.
That they got in spades.
The marketing of the surge in the past weeks has basically gone unchallenged by Democrats, giving these GOPers the sense that they have the political cover to keep opposing a fundamental change in course.
But that could well be false comfort.
As Atrios noted yesterday: "the right wing noise machine hasn't managed to move public opinion on Iraq at all, [though] it's been quite successful at moving the elite discourse...."
That was backed up by a new Democracy Corps poll analysis: "the country's political environment remains essentially unchanged ... attitudes on Iraq are unmoved and voters indicate little receptivity to reports of progress from Petraeus and the Bush administration."
Despite the reports of Democratic leaders foolishly thinking about forging an empty compromise, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is smartly characterizing the (not new) plan to wind down the surge next year to return troop levels to 130,000:
I mean, please, it's an insult to the intelligence of the American people that that is a new direction in Iraq ... what we saw yesterday was by no means a new direction, except in terms of a 10-year or more commitment for a long term occupation of Iraq....
That's the question that these 12 GOP Senators must be faced with repeatedly -- will you keep us in Iraq for at least 10 more years and send over the next generation of our kids? Or will you vote with Democrats to end the destabilizing occupation?
McConnell is grievously mistaken if he thinks this month's spin job means his fellow senators can win by supporting legislation that maintains a "long-term military presence."
But he will only be mistaken, if we keep up the pressure.
Cross-posted at the Campaign for America's Future blog