Steve Chapman

Bush has spent most of his energies on foreign affairs, but looking abroad does not brighten the picture. Bush claimed that because of the success of his strategy, "the surge forces we sent to Iraq are beginning to come home." The next day, though, the White House let it out that not all of them are returning just yet -- and that by the time Bush leaves office, the number of American troops in Iraq may still be higher than it was before the surge began.

He said the surge has "achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago." In terms of violence, he has grounds for that claim. But in terms of political reconciliation, Iraqis have failed to meet many of the major benchmarks that Bush demanded a year ago.

Then, he warned Iraqis that "America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people." But the Iraqis have balked, and Bush is letting them get away with it.

He bragged that thanks to our help, hope is on the rise in Afghanistan. In fact, 2007 was the deadliest year for U.S. troops and Afghan civilians since 2001. The Taliban has rebounded. One administration official recently told The Washington Post, "We're seeing definite expanded strongholds. That's not going to stop in 2008. … If anything, it's gaining momentum." In Afghanistan, things are getting worse, not better.

When he first went to Capitol Hill following his 2001 inauguration, Bush said he and members of Congress should aspire to earn "from our fellow citizens the highest possible praise: Well done, good and faithful servants." Whatever he hears from the American people when he leaves office next January, I'm guessing it won't be that.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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