Rich Lowry

And the main "compromise" proposal -- adopting the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group -- would have all American combat troops out of Iraq by the end of March 2008. It is self-evidently impossible to fight al-Qaida in Iraq without any combat troops to do it. What all those abandoning the surge essentially want is a return to the old failed Rumsfeld strategy of prematurely drawing down and handing over to unprepared Iraqi forces.

The surge has succeeded in reducing sectarian killings in Baghdad and civilian casualties overall, but at the cost of increased U.S. casualties and without the Iraqi legislative accomplishments that were established as "political benchmarks." Those benchmarks shouldn't be fetishized. The reason that they were considered so important is that they were thought necessary to entice Sunnis away from the insurgency. Instead, the Sunnis have swung our way anyway, in reaction to al-Qaida brutality and to our strength.

By any measure, this is significant political progress -- so significant, in fact, that no one even considered making it a "benchmark" at the beginning of the year. The U.S. political argument over benchmarks is shot through with bad faith anyway. Would the advocates of retreat really have a different position if the Iraqi parliament had managed to pass an oil-revenue-sharing law already? Unlikely.

Once again, all depends on President Bush. Senators of his party are ready to quit Iraq with al-Qaida undefeated. Is he?


Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
 
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