"By September, when Gen. Petraeus is to make his report, I think most people in Congress believe, unless something extraordinary occurs, that we should be on a move to draw that surge number down," the senator said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"I don't think we need to be an occupying power," he explained.
So what new strategy did this senator envision? Well, it sounded something like the strategy the Iraq Study Group suggested in December, or that about-to-be-fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested last November -- a strategy in which the United States would disengage from Iraqi cities while maintaining some forces in the country to train Iraqi troops, deter intervention by neighbors and act as a quick reaction force to target al-Qaida cells.
"This government in Iraq has got to step up, and we've got to be able to draw our troop levels down, to be in a more supportive role, an embedding role, a training role, and they've got to defend their own country," the senator said.
This was not some "centrist" Democrat or squishy Republican. It was Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of the Senate's most reliable conservatives -- and he was echoing the views of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, also a conservative. "I think the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president himself to lead it," McConnell's said last week. "We've given the Iraqi government an opportunity to have a normal country, and so far, they've been a great disappointment."
The stage is being set for Republicans and Democrats to at long last come together behind a new bipartisan policy for Iraq. President Bush himself is already halfway there.
From its inception, the objective of the "surge" was not military, but political. It was to buy time for Iraq's Shiite-Islamist-dominated government to enact reforms aimed at reconciling with Iraq's Sunni minority and, by that means, to politically stabilize the country.
"Gen. David Petraeus laid out a plan for Congress," President Bush explained at a press conference last week. "He talked about a strategy ... all aimed at helping this Iraqi government secure its capital so that they can do ... the political work necessary, the hard work necessary, to reconcile."
There are two good things about this strategy, one horrible thing and one thing now seemingly inevitable.