Webb’s is the bellwether proposal Reid has offered at the start of each round of Iraq battles in the Senate. The idea is to mandate a set period of time between tours for the troops, ostensibly in order to give them more rest at home but actually to force a partial drawdown of troop levels in Iraq by making it impossible for the Pentagon to maintain pre-surge numbers in the field at any given time. The appeal of legislating more R&R for the troops makes it the Democrats’ best chance for compromise with the Republicans, so if this fails, all the measures to come will fail, too. Well, it failed — and not only did it fail, it failed to draw even a single additional yes vote since it was last torpedoed in July. The tally then was 56-41, with Tim Johnson among those not voting because he was home recovering from a stroke; today it was 56-44, with Johnson voting with the majority but John Warner switching to a no after “senior military officials” assured him that the measure would be disastrous to the war effort. Either Petraeus persuaded him last week or the fact that he no longer has to worry about re-election freed him up to vote his conscience, or both. Whatever the reason, the result here mirrors public opinion insofar as the much anticipated Petraeus report didn’t earn the war any new supporters (except maybe Warner) but did stop the supporters it already had from bleeding away. Net result: Maliki has a few more months to pull a rabbit out of his hat before the GOP abandons ship, but only a few. They’re not going to wait around for Petraeus’s next report in March to tack left before the election.
As the Journal’s profile of Gates’s strategy makes clear, withdrawal isn’t a question of if anymore, it’s a question of when. Although that’s a mighty big question.
Update: “Pro-pullout” doesn’t really sing so HuffPo finds another adjective.
Update: Meanwhile, Bush enjoys the gift that keeps on giving.