How the war might play out

President Bush is planning a treaty with Iraq, to be finalized next summer, which will have the practical effect of handing the war and the president’s tactics to his successor as a fait accompli. Whoever the next president is, it will be very tough to disentangle us from the war.

As for the war, there are a couple of fascinating developments. The surge is working, maybe only temporarily, but it is working. Violence has fallen dramatically; large areas of Baghdad are something close to normal; and the refugees have begun to return.

Even the public feels better about the war. About half the people think the military effort is going well, up from 30 percent last February. It hasn’t done much for the president. Bush’s approval ratings actually slipped again, to 30 percent.

Meanwhile, Bush confidante Karl Rove, whose job in retirement appears to be brushing up the president’s legacy, says, rather stunningly, that Bush didn’t want to go to war but was pushed into it by the Senate’s impetuous rush to pass a war-powers resolution. One who voted for it, of course, was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now the Democratic presidential front-runner.

These converging trends could be a nightmare for Bush. Let us play with a scenario. Sometime between 2009 and 2017, the former president is watching TV, as it happens, with NBC’s “Today” on the scene.

Meredith: “After a tumultuous welcome here at Baghdad airport, the presidential motorcade is about to leave for the Green Zone. It’s a sign of how much things have changed that the president is riding in an open convertible, which the cheering populace has almost buried in flowers.

“I don’t believe it, Matt, but President Hillary Clinton is being welcomed as a liberator.”

Matt: “They’re coming down Route Irish, once considered the most dangerous road in Iraq. Now, of course, it’s the William Jefferson Clinton Highway in honor of the president’s global-goodwill ambassador and the work he did in her early difficult days in office shoring up support for the war.

“As an interesting footnote, the motorcade is now passing a popular local falafel stand, part of a chain started by former cleric Moktada al-Sadr after he gave up the Mahdi Army and radical Islam. Indeed, I believe that’s he on the sidewalk waving an American flag.”

Meredith: “We’re now coming onto the grounds of the presidential palace where President Clinton will be greeted by Prime Minister Siddiq, voted into office in an election that U.N. observers called ‘even cleaner than Iceland’s.’ He is waiting beneath the giant statue of Gen. David Petraeus, a popular backdrop for wedding-party photos.

“Matt, Prime Minister Siddiq is departing from the official welcome program. It looks like Hillary Clinton is winning the Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes. He’s presenting her with a huge check. It’s for half a trillion dollars. Let’s listen to the Iraqi leader.”

Siddiq: “It’s money from our oil revenue and just a small payment — the first of many — to thank you for all the money you Americans spent to free and restore our country.”

Matt: “The two leaders are now going up the steps to the official guesthouse. There will be a light dinner and then they are off to the Baghdad Stadium for the big Barbra Streisand benefit concert to combat global warming.

“And now here’s Al with the weather from Anbar Province …”