Maggie Gallagher

But in spite of their jaundiced view of this administration, and their pessimism about Iraq, Americans are (unlike our political leaders) displaying remarkably grown-up, measured and responsible attitudes about what should happen next.

The majority of Americans (56 percent) in the New York Times poll favor staying in Iraq with reduced troop numbers "to train Iraqi forces, fight terrorists and protect American diplomats." Just 22 percent favor a complete withdrawal from Iraq over the next year, about the same number (20 percent) who say we should stay the course until stable democracy comes to Iraq. And 71 percent of Americans said flexibility in staging a withdrawal was more important than either unqualified victory or an immediate withdrawal demanded by and its ilk.

Americans also retain their powerful bias that our military should be used primarily to protect Americans, not to prevent humanitarian disasters on far-flung shores. Almost half of Americans favor reducing troops even if the result is "more mass killings" in ethnic strife in Iraq. Just 30 percent favor reducing troops or withdrawal if it means Iraq would become a base of terrorist operations as a result.

I hope President Bush is taking notes.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.