Bush's strategy for polishing his legacy on Iraq: leaving the mess for others to clean up:
The talk in Washington on Monday was all about troop reductions, yet it also brought into sharp focus President Bush's plans to end his term with a strong U.S. military presence in Iraq, and to leave tough decisions about ending the unpopular war to his successor.
The plans outlined by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, would retain a large force in the country -- perhaps more than 100,000 troops -- when the time comes for Bush to move out of the White House in January 2009.
The plans also would allow Bush to live up to his pledge to the defining mission of his presidency, and perhaps to improve his chances for a decent legacy. He can say he left office pursuing a strategy that was having at least some success in suppressing violence, a claim that some historians may view sympathetically.
The defining mission of his presidency? What was that? Spreading democracy all over the Middle East? Yeah, that worked out real well.
Bush can say anything he wants to say about conditions in Iraq when he leaves office, and indeed, some historians may view his claims sympathetically. It's certainly a fittingly low standard to set for this administration.