Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday he would support a short-term increase in U.S. troops in Iraq being weighed by President George W. Bush if it is part of a broader withdrawal plan.
Bush has been talking to experts about a new Iraq strategy and a short-term increase in U.S. troops to help make Baghdad more secure is one idea that has been presented to him.
"If it's for a surge, that is, for two or three months and it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I'll go along with it," said Reid, who will become the majority leader when Democrats take control of the Senate next month from Bush's Republicans. He spoke on ABC's "This Week" program.
People are freaking out about this statement (just check out dKos tonight!), and clearly the press is planning to run with this as far as they can because the press luuuuvs stories about "Democrats in disarray!" "Democrats go all weak-kneed before the massive codpiece of the W!" "All the sensible, serious people support the latest "one last chance" in Iraq!"
Both, so it seems to me, are relying on a certain "trimming" of the major qualifier in Reid's statement. These people are reading the statement as "I support the president's [and John McCain and Joe Lieberman's] plan to increase troops in Iraq."
But that's not what he says. Look at the original statement again: "If [the president's likely plan to increase troops is] for a surge, that is, for two or three months and it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I'll go along with it."
Atrios is virtually alone in the blogosphere as someone who caught this distinction:
People seem to be upset that Reid sorta-endorsed the McCain/Lieberman plan to increase the number of troops in the short run. I don't really see it that way - no Senator can expect to micromanage troop levels in Iraq. Reid basically said that he's fine with any strategy which has the goal of getting the troops out by about next Spring. That, of course, isn't the McCain/Lieberman strategy. [emphasis mine]
That last part's the catch. Reid's only saying that he'll go along with a 3 month long surge that actually is part of that "moonwalking" plan the generals were talking about right after the election, a plan to withdraw while appearing to escalate. Whether or not that's a good idea is a different matter, but that's not what the W will probably settle on (and certainly not what McCain/Lieberman is talking about when he advocates for a troop increase). The president is not done in Iraq, he still thinks he can "win" it, and any troop additions will not be part of a withdrawal plan; they'll be part of an escalation, pure and simple. Thus, is the president's surge only supposed to last for 2 to 3 months? No. Is it part of a program to withdraw by this time next year? No.
Then there's no evidence, based on this quote, that Reid is or would ever sign onto an escalation.