The Bush Administration seems to have taken to heart Barack Obama's assertion that the U.S. should be as careful getting out of Iraq as it was careless going in. President Bush announced today that he'll withdraw only about 5% of the current 146,000-strong force in Iraq before he leaves office. "Civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down, suicide bombings are down and normal life is returning to communities across the country," Bush told a military audience in Washington this morning. "While the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we have seized the offensive."
But the redeployment is decidedly modest, scaled way back from the drawdown hoped for by some military officials (over the past year, they have suggested that one-third of the current U.S. force could be withdrawn by 2009). Bush plans to withdraw 8,000 troops around the time he leaves office on Jan. 20, leaving about 137,000 in Iraq for the next President to deal with. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, has declared that he would withdraw all U.S. combat forces within 16 months of taking office; GOP nominee John McCain has said only that his withdrawal plans would be guided by U.S. commanders in Iraq.