The latest Pew survey finds an excruciating middle ground:

While a majority of the public wants out of Iraq, most do not want a rush for the exit ... Pew's recent polling shows the public is sensitive to possible consequences for the Iraqi people if America packs up and makes for the borders. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) see the chances of a civil war in Iraq increasing (only 6% foresee a decrease) while 55% think it more likely that al Qaeda would establish terror bases there. Moreover, in an April poll, 45% of Americans said that if the U.S. withdraws its troops while the situation in Iraq is still unstable, a terrorist attack on the U.S. would become more likely.

On the other hand, nearly as many among the public -- 41% -- felt that a terrorist attack on America would become more likely if U.S. troops remained in Iraq for many years. Moreover, by July, roughly half of the public (49%) had reached the conclusion that, come what may, the United States will probably (32%) or definitely (17%) fail to achieve its goals in Iraq, compared with 43% who felt it would definitely (9%) and or probably (34%) win out in the end.

As it happens, I think the American people are seeing reality in this. The truth is: leaving or staying are both unpredictable options in the awfulness of the likely consequences. My own judgment is that we are better off quitting sooner rather than later, with the proviso that we protect Kurdistan from Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish aggression. And the deeper question is whether the Arab world should be occupied by the West indefinitely. I say no. The logic of the pro-surgers is yes: the new empire begins in Baghdad. At least I have yet to hear from them an argument as to how their policy isn't endless, how the arguments against withdrawal now won't be valid five months or five years from now. If they want a decades-long occupation, they need to say so. If they don't, they need to tell us how they expect us to leave, and in what time frame. I see no reason for optimism as far as the eye and mind can see. Which means we already have a new colony - in the hell-hole of Mesopotamia.

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