The fact that Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner -- former Navy Sec., Armed Services Chairman and all that -- has called on President Bush to reduce the number of troops in Iraq by Christmas is significant in most of the ways the conventional media are saying. He is a significant Republican with military-friendly credentials breaking at least a bit with the White House -- the news tonight is that the White House asked him to "clarify" his statement yesterday to make it clear he hasn't broken with the administration and he said the statement stands on its own and doesn't require clarification -- an implicit rebuke.
I'm not sure I'm as hopeful as some others that this will be the signal for a lot of other Republicans to start siding with their constituents rather than with the president on the war or not. Incredibly, there's still a stubborn base that believes in this war and thinks the Kool-Aid is champagne and anyone who disagrees is a traitor. We've had predictions of the Republican dam breaking before and it hasn't happened, but we'll see.
What's most interesting about Warner's stance is the validation it gives to a number of war critics who have argued that a better hope for the Iraqis starting to get their act together -- far from a guarantee, but a hope -- lies in beginning to withdraw father than continuing to provide increasing amounts of military assistance and "security."
Warner is suggesting that the signal of, in effect, "we're not staying forever, so it's time to get serious" is more likely to provide an impetus for politicxal seriousness and maybe even a chance at something approaching recoinciliation than the promise implicit in the "surge:" We'll handle the military-security side of things to give you time to get it together. With most human beings this leads to procrastination or shoirt-term thinking. War critics have been arguing this forever, and now there's a veteran hawk agreeing -- and all kinds of serving (not retired) military people coming pretty close to the same position.