By the generals running the war, says The New York Times.

In the fall of 2005, the generals running the Iraq war told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a gradual withdrawal of American troops from Iraq was imperative.

The American troop presence, Gen. John P. Abizaid and Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said at the time, was stoking the insurgency, fostering dependency among the Iraqi security forces and proving counterproductive for what General Abizaid has called “The Long War� against Islamic radicalism.

This week, General Abizaid, chief of the United States Central Command, told the same committee that American forces may be all that is preventing full-scale civil war in Iraq, so a phased troop withdrawal would be a mistake. What has changed, military experts and intelligence officials say, is that the insurgency of Baathists and foreign jihadists is no longer the greatest enemy the United States faces in Iraq. The biggest danger now, they say, is that violence between Shiites and Sunnis could destroy Iraq’s government and spill across the Middle East.

This is really interesting. The Democrats have rejected John Murtha as House Majority Leader, an implicit rebuke to Speaker Pelosi’s clear antiwar views (as well as to Rep. Murtha’s ethics troubles) and in a sense a replay of Lieberman’s victory over Lamont. One sizable contingent of Democratic voters were voting specifically for an end to the war, but it was the centrist “Blue Dog” Democrats who put the party over the top. Centrists of both parties seem to be leaning not so much towards “Let’s change course and leave” as towards “Let’s change course and win,” or at least give it a smart, serious try before giving up. Now the generals are saying that troop levels not only can’t go down yet, but they may need to go up:

A unit of about 2,200 marines that had been aboard naval warships in the Persian Gulf has begun moving into Anbar Province, the restive Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. […]

On Friday, the Pentagon also announced a new set of deployment orders for troops that will enter Iraq early in 2007, most for yearlong combat tours.

American commanders had hoped by this point to be deploying fewer combat brigades into Iraq than the number rotating out, but the Pentagon is now planning to keep a base level of about 141,000 troops in the country, with the possibility of “surging� more troops as needed.

The question is whether a majority of midterm voters will feel betrayed (we know some will) or vindicated and inspired by this shift.

Politics “Withdrawing troops from Iraq is no longer seen as an option.”