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Constant readers of The New York Times editorial page must have had whiplash this morning when they read The Times editorializing that the Brits are leaving Iraq in precisely the wrong way.

The Brits are reducing their forces dramatically while they hand day to day security of Basra over to Iraqi forces. You might say the Brits are leaving Iraq willfully blind because it seems to matter not much to them that as they reduce forces, sectarian militias increase their own and take over more geography in the south of Iraq.

So while continuing to blame the situation in Iraq on the U.S., The Times says the U.S. cannot just walk away from Iraq: "It will need to keep sufficient forces and staging points in the region to strike effectively against terrorist sanctuaries there or an Al Qaeda bid to hijack control of a strife-torn Iraq."

Is The Times hedging its anti-war bets by suggesting a large force will have to continue in Iraq or in the neighborhood for years?

They continue: "It is folly to expect a smaller American force to do in a short time what a much larger force could not do over a very long time."

I seem to recall Democrat figures like Harry Reid and John Murtha and Russ Feingold and even Republicans like Gordon Smith of Oregon proposing an approach that sounds an awful lot like the British plan.

So what's going to happen here? Is The Times giving guidance to Democrats that while hating the war, sometimes responsible politicians have to continue despite their misgivings? And just how much different than the Bush position is that?

Democrats say — and I believe they are wrong — that Bush wants to stay in Iraq forever. I believe what the surge is showing is that a large force can control the insurgents. If that is the case, then would Democrats really want to ignore success and engage in a step-down stand-down, a reduction of troops to a very small level before the final order of "bring 'em home"?

Frankly, I'm just confused. Which side is The Times on now? More war or less war? My recollection of previous editorial positions is that The Times wanted out of Iraq. So what has changed?

Just the Democrats might win the White House, and The Times is starting to see the folly, as its editorialists put it, of just walking out. The left, I then assume, does not want to be the author of a new chapter in the history of revenge murder and genocide.

Barack Obama said the possibility of genocide is not a reason to stay in Iraq. Do I read The New York Times correctly that the paper thinks that, in fact, might be a perfectly good reason?

That's My Word.

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