I liked Tim Fernholtz's gloss on the whole issue of whether or not Obama needs to change his Iraq policy: "George Packer touched off a discussion yesterday with a comment suggesting that conditions in Iraq might be improving so much that Obama won't able to see through his ambitious withdrawal plan."
Right. To surge optimists the surge has gone so well that to contemplate the war ending at any point is to court disaster. I've favored leaving Iraq for years now. I'd like to start doing as soon as possible. But of course I'm not a crazy person -- if some gambit was on the table that stood a good chance of "working," in the sense of creating a sustainable dramatic improvement in conditions in Iraq, over a year-long time horizon I'd be happy to endorse that rather than leaving so soon. But the definition of "working" I'd be working with, the common sense one, is that after your policy "works" the war ends on relatively favorable terms.
But surge-working isn't "everyone relax, the troops will be home by Christmas once they finish their job"-working. Instead it's "this is working so well that the war can continue indefinitely but our troops will be killed at a slower rate"-working. It's not, "be a bit more patient and this thing will end" it's "we think we've enhanced the political sustainability of an expensive and pointless effort to dominate Iraq."
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