Does going back to pre-surge levels count as a drawdown?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 13 2007 6:08 AM

Win, Lose, or Drawdown

The Washington Post leads with Congress looking to push more centrist Iraq legislation, in hopes that compromise measures can garner enough support to withstand a filibuster. As American politicians look to strike a deal, the Iraqi government is scrambling to salvage a compromise on oil resources, reports the New York Times.

USA Today leads with a feature on the increase in political activism among illegal immigrants, who hope that work stoppages will make their economic impact felt.  The Los Angeles Times leads locally; its top national story examines Hillary Clinton's surprising appeal for anti-war Democrats. *  The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and runs an accompanying piece arguing that Abe's exit creates a leadership vacuum in Japan and could weaken its economy.

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The WP's lead says Democrats are reaching out to moderate Republicans over the war in Iraq. While that's an aspect of what's going on, the bulk of the article is actually about how moderates of both parties are looking to move bipartisan legislation that makes incremental changes to the U.S. war strategy, instead of backing their respective party lines. It's difficult to tell from the piece if the Democratic leadership is really spearheading this push or just acceding to their rank and file. Earlier in the year, the Democrat-controlled Senate repeatedly took up the war in a variety of venues pushing for withdrawal in one form or another, only to be rebuffed by pro-war Republicans. Meanwhile, more nuanced measures fell by the wayside, as hard-line anti-war members fought anything short of total withdrawal. Now the paper says that provisions that failed as recently as July may have another shot at passage, as amendments to the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill.

The NYT brings the White House into the picture, giving a preview of President Bush's Thursday night address on the war. Bush is expected to announce troop redeployments in line with Gen. Petraeus' recommendation, cutting troop levels from 160,000 to 130,000 by next July— back to where they stood before the President's "surge" plan. The paper says the president hopes to cut the number of combat troops roughly in half by the end of his term, though that figure doesn't include support troops. The paper says the White House will try to sell the move as bipartisanship motivated by military success, while Democrats will argue that reducing troop numbers to pre-surge levels doesn't constitute a change in policy.

The WP runs an analysis of Gen. David H. Petraeus' transformation into the public face of the war in Iraq. The paper asks whether this new role enhances or detracts from Petraeus' ability to influence the debate, as greater visibility has led to greater scrutiny of his methods and motivations.

Negotiations over the proposed Iraqi oil law, seen by many in Washington as a key to political stability, are crumbling as the leaders of the northern Kurdish region continue to sign deals with oil companies under their own oil law. The Kurds maintain they have the authority to do so under the Iraqi constitution, but the deals are making Sunni and Shiite politicians nervous that Kurds won't recognize a federal law once it's passed. The office of Prime Minister Maliki is alleging that his political opponents are holding up the law in order to deny his fragile government an important political victory.

Illegal immigrants hope that by protesting, staying home from work, and boycotting businesses that support immigration crack downs, they can create sympathy for their cause and awareness of how vital they can be to a local economy, says USAT. The paper is less clear on what these efforts are accomplishing. There's very little hard data here, but the anecdotes in the piece suggest that such maneuvers may just be fueling opposition to illegal immigration and furthering an us-vs.-them mentality.

A LAT feature on the Air Force's use of improved remote camera technology to streamline calling in air strikes is a little reminder that no amount of gadgetry can replace common sense on the battlefield. * The piece follows one man's efforts to implement camera technology into Predator drones, so as to allow soldiers in the field to order air strikes faster, a quest that would end up saving his own life.

The WP off leads with news that Democratic former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner will seek outgoing Republican Sen. John W. Warner's seat in 2008. The contest is expected to join Senate contests for GOP-held seats in Colorado, New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon as partisan battlegrounds in 2008. The paper reports that the two parties combined could spend $30 million in the state. Warner will almost certainly see a high-profile Republican challenger, as both Rep. Thomas M. Davis III and former Gov. James S. Gilmore III are considering runs.

A federal judge ruled in favor of a California law limiting car emissions to stricter-than-federal standards, reports the NYT. The Clean Air Act lets California (and only California) set stricter standards if it likes, provided the EPA signs a waiver, but then allows other states to opt for whichever standard they prefer. So far, 13 states have opted for the California standard, should it ever take effect. The California law is being challenged by auto manufactures who say, among other things, that the standards would be too hard to meet and could end up costing jobs. It's all still a moot point, however, unless the EPA signs that waiver allowing the California law to take effect.

Cocaine supplies in 26 cities have dropped sharply in the last year due to a crackdown by Mexican authorities, reports USAT. The drop in supply has caused a spike in the price of both powdered cocaine and crack, while diluting the purity of the drugs on the streets.

Meanwhile, the NYT says some states are beginning to wonder if hard-line anti-gang tactics are working. The paper says the old argument that tough sentences are necessary as a deterrent is giving way to the notion that gangs can swell their ranks in prison. Activists are also concerned the anti-gang laws may encourage racial profiling.

Despite being (as the LAT puts it) more "hawkish," a recently released poll finds Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the most appealing Democratic presidential candidate for voters in early primary states who say ending the war is their No. 1 issue. Voters interviewed for the piece are all infuriatingly vague about why that is.

Under the fold, the WP parses Vladimir Putin's unexpected choice of Viktor Zubkov to replace Mikhail Fradkov as prime minister. Fradkov unexpectedly resigned, saying he wanted to give Putin latitude in the run-up to the presidential election next spring. The decision to replace him with Zubkov is an odd one, however, even to analysts used to decoding the motives of the Kremlin. Zubkov was a minor party official and his promotion leapfrogs him over two ambitious deputy prime ministerswhich may be the point all by itself. Putin cannot seek a third term in 2008, but he can run again after someone else takes a turn at the wheel. If he sets Zubkov up to win in 2008, he can easily sweep him aside in 2012or even sooner should Zubkov quitand then resume command.

The growing need for organ transplants may be encouraging highly unethical behavior from doctors looking to harvest organs, says the WP.

A rare bit of good news: The NYT reports child mortality has hit a record low of under 10 million deaths per year. The drop comes from a combination of public health campaigns and improving economic conditions.

The WP and the NYT just refer it, but oil briefly hit $80 a barrel yesterday, and when the price of oil rises, the cost of gasoline typically follows.

The WSJ profiles the unseemly synergy between MTV and Axe antiperspirant.

They can 'comeback' to haunt you …

Britney Spears' performance at the MTV Video Music Awards is a great example of the dangers of calling something a "comeback," even when you've been here for years. The LAT takes an amusing look at how a comeback effort can cut both ways, depending on whether fans' expectations are met.

Correction, Sept. 14, 2007: This article originally identified the Los Angeles Times Air Force piece as the paper's lead story. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

Jesse Stanchak is a writer living in Washington, D.C.