Pelosi and Reid send letter to Bush urging "phased redeployment"; Poll: 28 Senators would vote differently on war

Drudge is teasing it but doesn’t have the text yet. HuffPo, however, does:

The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they do not believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people…

Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.

Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed… Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq…

Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement.

If that bolded part sounds familiar, it’s because it’s Carl Levin’s plan. Or was Levin’s plan: he said yesterday he’d consider supporting a surge, so long as it comes with conditions like ending our “open-ended commitment” to Iraq.

Bush is going to announce the new strategy in a speech Wednesday night. I’ve got about two dozen surge links piled up that I need to disgorge, and this seems as good a time as any. So check back in a bit for an update to this post.

Update: On second thought, there’ll be plenty of time to talk about this next week. Most of the arguments pro and con are familiar to us all by now anyway — how much of a difference can even 40,000 troops make at this point, what good will it do if the government is in Sadr’s pocket, etc etc. Bush is getting his ducks in a row, though: Zal Khalilzad, the current ambassador to Iraq, will be point man for the new strategy to the UN; Gen. David Petraeus is being promoted to replace Casey as head of MNF; and John Negroponte is moving to State to manage the diplomatic side of the new strategy. Says Time:

Negoponte is expected to bring much-needed help and Iraq expertise to Rice at the State Dept, where she has functioned without a deputy and other key aides for many months. Negroponte was ambassador to Baghdad in 2004 and 2005 and, before that, U.S. representative at the United Nations. He has long been associated with America’s Iraq policy; as an experienced diplomat but also a hardliner, he was a frequent briefer for President Bush. “Secretary Rice has now said she wants to focus on Arab-Israel peace talks, and other pressing matters which she would not be able to without someone like Negroponte to take over Iraq policy,” one high-ranking State Department veteran told TIME.

Biden opts for the conspiratorial view as all leftists do and must, but it looks like Bush really is approaching this as his last chance to win. McCain defended his own pro-surge position in Vanity Fair by saying, “I saw the kind of impact of a broken army, a defeated army and Marine Corps, after Vietnam. And I’d much rather have ’em take a strain and have some success than be defeated.” Bush doubtless agrees. The problem, as Michael Duffy puts it, is that “the surge is a strange half-measure–too large for the political climate at home, too small to crush the insurgency in Iraq and surely three years too late.” It’d be nice to have “some” success, as McCain says, but “some” can mean a lot of things, potentially at a steep price. Defending an honorable government is one thing but if all we’re doing is going to bat for the Sadrists, then maybe Batiste is right: “We have reached the point where we need to ask the question whether it is more important to preserve the country of Iraq with its façade of democratic government, or protect our own national security interests.”

Read this piece at CSM, in the meantime. There’s a debate going on in the Barney Frank thread about whether ethnic cleansing and genocide mean the same thing. In the case of Iraq, embracing one (via population transfer) might help prevent the other.

Update: I forgot to mention this Victor Davis Hanson piece today at NRO. He’s against the surge too unless Bush takes a raft of other measures like … sealing the border with Syria, preparing for regional warfare if need be, and reemphasizing the democratic idealism of the mission at every turn to an American public that no longer trusts the Iraqi government. How he plans to accomplish all this with 40,000 new troops is far beyond me, but that’s why he’s VDH and I’m the guy who posts Miss Piggy videos.

Update: The only name I’m surprised to see on this list is Kay Bailey Hutchison’s.