Sometimes, it's useful to take politicians at their word. George W. Bush has announced that he's sending an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq, to provide security in Baghdad and Anbar province. Gen. David Petraeus in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee said that it's impossible to achieve that goal without additional troops. He also said, in response to a question from Sen. Joseph Lieberman, that a congressional resolution disapproving of the additional troops would not have a positive effect on military morale.
We don't know whether this "surge" of troops to Iraq will achieve its goal, but we do know that Petraeus is held in high regard. Armed Services voted unanimously to confirm him.
With that in mind, let's look at the decisive words in the resolution approved with a 12-to-9 majority by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and which seems sure to be approved by a majority of the Senate. "The primary objective of the United States strategy in Iraq," reads the resolution, "should be to have the Iraqi political leaders make the political compromises necessary to end the violence in Iraq." Compromises with whom? The al-Qaida forces? What compromises would satisfy them? With the Baathist Sunnis? Ditto. With Sunni and Shia militias? Maybe some would be satisfied by "political compromises." But some probably won't.
Sometimes, the only way to stop the bad guys is to capture or kill them or threaten credibly to do so. It's not a bad idea to pressure the Iraqi government to act against the sectarian killers -- there's evidence it's already doing so. But if they don't have enough military strength to stop the violence -- and no one says they do -- those efforts could be too little.
Here the resolution fudges. "The United States should transfer, under an appropriately expedited timeline, responsibility for internal security and halting sectarian violence in Iraq to the government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces." It also says it is "not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by increasing the United States military force presence in Iraq."
So we shouldn't fight any harder, and we shouldn't send in any more troops to accomplish something -- the restoration of order in Baghdad and Anbar -- that Petraeus says can't be accomplished without more troops and different tactics.