The answer is in tonight's speech from the White House Library, and it appears to be "more than you can count." (Transcript here.)
It's dismaying to watch Bush--obviously no longer having fun being President, by the way--commit 20,000 more American lives to a failed war in a failed nation, just to keep the actual, inevitable collapse from happening during his own term in office, but that's where we are.
And here's feature that has Cheney and Rove's fingerprints all over it: The additional troops were already starting to move before the speech began. Obviously they can't ship all 20,000 out this evening (much as they might like to), but this is clearly meant to create symbolic leverage against the majority party in Congress: Whereas yesterday Pelosi, Kennedy, et al., could draw the distinction between supporting the troops already on the ground and withholding support for a planned escalation, today Bush and his ever-dwindling pool of supporters can retort that withholding funding for the escalation also undermines troops already on the ground in Iraq. It is a pretty specious argument, true, but given that even tonight the mainstream media are still following Bush in calling this escalation a "surge," I'm sure they can be counted upon to bring this "undermining the troops" claim up, in the name of "balance."
Committing 20,000 more troops to a war zone where they don't even have a plan for the soldiers who are already there, simply to keep from accepting responsibility for what's already happened. They have no military strategy for the war; they only have a political strategy. And even that hasn't been working as well lately as famously did a couple of years ago.
But by attempting an end-run around Congressional oversight of his private war, Bush has raised the stakes for the Democrats who are talking about exerting control over his warmaking: As Sirota correctly points out tonight, it's "put up or shut up" time:
It’s time for Democrats to step up, not pass nonbinding resolutions, and instead pass something like Kennedy’s that uses Congress’s power of the purse to stop this reckless escalation. It’s put up or shut up time. Remember, don’t watch their speeches - watch their actions, and specifically their willingness or unwillingness to sign onto Kennedy’s legislation.
Oh yeah--and those troops we're sending over now? Sorry, guys, but the good armor got used up already.