Rauch on Iraq

Perhaps the best summary of where we are that I've read. Money quote:

The surge has temporarily stabilized what had become a downward spiral and, by doing so, has bought some time. But not much time, and the Iraqis have done little with it.

Here's a startling headline: "More Troops, Better General, and Smarter Strategy Yield Some Results." It would have been surprising if the troop surge had not yielded tactical improvements. (To the extent that the surge is working, it gives a depressing taste of how much better this war could have gone if Bush had provided adequate manpower and leadership four years ago.) The question has always been whether tactical progress -- suppression of the conflict -- could be translated into strategic gains, in the form of political stability...

The war is on a timetable already, one dictated by military constraints and political reality. "I think everyone understands that, by a year from now, we've got to be a good deal smaller than we are right now," Petraeus said last month. By this time next year, Bush's reluctance to scale up the Army to match his rhetoric will have caught up with him.

The military schedule synchronizes with the political one. By this time next year, if Iraq has not turned the corner, a good guess is that the Republican presidential nominee will be facing a choice: Promise to wind down the war, or lose the election. Whichever choice the nominee makes, the die will be cast.

Democrats have every reason to be angry at Bush's evasion of political accountability for the mess he has made in Iraq. Democrats, Republicans, and all other Americans have every reason to be angry at Bush for making the mess to begin with. They have every reason to feel about him the way the wildlife of Prince William Sound felt about Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the Exxon Valdez.

But anger does not justify impatience. If Petraeus says he needs more time, he should get it. If he fails, a course correction won't be long in coming. The 22nd Amendment has seen to that.