The U.S. House may have voted last week for a withdrawal from Iraq beginning in April, but don't expect that withdrawal to really happen any time soon.
The political reality is that the House has a larger Democratic edge, and is able to pass such a piece of legislation. However, few in the House expect that piece of legislation to make it past the more conservative Senate with it's tiny Democratic margin, or past the veto pen of George Bush. In reality, the House is made up of 435 politicians, some of which feel that it is to their advantage to vote for such a deadend piece of legislation, only to take that vote back to their districts and laud it to the voters when it is to their political benefit. There was hardly any serious intent that such legislation would really become law at this point.
And the same members of the House nearly always fail to read the entire text of bills that they vote for. Buried in many of the Iraq War funding authorizations bills was language that funded the construction of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, for example. Congress has consistently voted for the construction of these permanent military bases in Iraq, which often rank as some of the few successful Iraq construction projects that were actually completed. It seems somewhat unlikely that the U.S. will be turning these over to the Iraqi military any time in the near future.
With the exception of Vietnam, the U.S. has maintained a military presense in every nation since WWII that it has become involved in during a war. Many U.S. military bases still exist in Germany, Japan and Korea for example. Iraq will probably be no different. Smaller token pullouts of some U.S. forces are likely in the future at some point for domestic political reasons. But the real end of an occupation by U.S. is highly unlikely.
The beginning of any real pullout from Iraq will take up to two years because a withdrawal is both highly dangerous and risks insurgent and terrorist attacks on the retreating forces. And with so much military hardware and bases left behind, the withdrawal of these forces will be extremely slow and careful. Look for that to drag along during the next presidential administration, and not this one.
Mr. Bush may have slowly eroding support for the Iraq War, even among some of Republican supporters. But there is no reason to expect that the U.S. will be leaving Iraq very soon. The reality is that we will remain stuck with both feet in cement shoes there for quite some time. It's very easy to enter a war. It's always hard to completely exit one. History since WWII proves that.
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