Having abandonned "stay the course" rhetoric, the question arises, exactly, of how the administration's new plan for Iraq differs from the old one. If it doesn't differ, of course, then we're just staying the course. Well, the new plan has substantive components and a procedural one. Substantively, it calls for the disarmament of Shiite militias and talks aimed at incorporating Sunni Arab groups into the political process. I have no idea how many times I've seen these exact same initiatives proposed before and touted as progress. Half a dozen? Twenty? Who knows?

Procedurally, there is a new wrinkle -- the dread timeline, or at least a "timetable for a series of milestones to be pursued in the coming year." Nevertheless, General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad "did not say what American officials planned to do if the timetable is not met." So there's no actual timetable for the implementation of the new policy, and there's no actual new policy.

Meanwhile, administration figures have correctly discerned that it would be easy to manage the situation in Iraq -- to at least keep some kind of lid on the bloodshed -- if Syria and Iran were cooperating with us. Unlike weak-kneed appeasers who want to try and achieve this through talks including the governments of the United States, Iraq, and Iraq's various neighbors, the administration has hit upon the awesome "new" "policy" of talking shit about Syria and Iran in hopes that empty rhetoric and a hostile attitude will lead to the rise of a new spirit of benevolence in Damascus and Teheran. The president is like a five year-old sitting in the sandbox hoping that if he cries and screams long enough his mom will drop by and sort out his disagreements with the other kids in the park.