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Lieutenant General Doug Lute's hearing will probably be most memorable for how it raised doubt as to Steve Hadley's job as national security adviser. Just before the hearing ended, however, Lute offered a new iteration of the administration's line on the most controversial issue of all: permanent military bases. Lute said that "we don't seek this," but desire instead "a more normalized nation-to-nation relationship" with Iraq:
But a "more normalized" relationship with Iraq may not be inconsistent to the Bush administration with an open-ended presence. During a March reporting trip I took to Iraq, U.S. diplomats and military officers explained to me how we're likely to stay in Iraq for some unspecified-but-long period of time by using some variation of the line Lute used in the hearing. And with the president offering South Korea -- where the U.S. has garrisoned forces for half a century -- as a model for the future of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, it's clear that the administration envisions keeping at least some troops there. Lute didn't specify what a "more normalized" relationship will entail in terms of a troop commitment, but he may have introduced an open-ended war's new euphemism.