OK I'm putting words in both their mouths, but let's see if I can stitch this one together.
The Democrats failed on every front. Most obviously, the war goes on; 812 American troops died between Bush’s two speeches, along with at least 12,400 Iraqis. Less obviously, even on the margins of congressional debate, anti-war forces lost ground. Every war-funding bill passed without a timetable for withdrawal.
Climactic testimony from Gen. David H. Petraeus devolved into a slog over tactics rather than a vivid demonstration that not even a supremely talented general can redeem this war.
Worse yet, buried within Bush’s Sept. 13 speech was a belated recognition of the most salient fact of the entire war: Success in Iraq "will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency." Bush declared himself "ready to begin … an enduring relationship." It was a casual declaration of what has been clear for months: The Bush administration is setting the stage for a costly commitment to keep a force in Iraq for decades to come, a commitment that will be exceedingly difficult for Bush’s successors to abridge or annul.
Almost exactly 13 months ago, the top Marine intelligence officer in Iraq wrote that the grim situation in Anbar province would continue to deteriorate unless an additional division was sent in, along with substantial economic aid. Today, Marine leaders are musing openly about clearing out of Anbar, not because it is a lost cause, but because we have defeated al Qaeda there.
In Fallujah, enlisted marines have complained to an officer of my acquaintance: “There’s nobody to shoot here, sir. If it’s just going to be building schools and hospitals, that’s what the Army is for, isn’t it?” Throughout the area, Sunni sheikhs have joined the Marines to drive out al Qaeda, and this template has spread to Diyala Province, and even to many neighborhoods in Baghdad itself, where Shiites are fighting their erstwhile heroes in the Mahdi Army.
A couple of different views of our current situation in Iraq to say the least. I love the quote about "that's what the Army is for, isn't it?" Heh. Spencer Ackerman writes a surprisingly clear-headed look at how long we will be in Iraq. Hint, think about the last axis we broke up. He seems to think it may be a more menacing thing than I do, but he does a fair job of looking at the probability.
I think that given the knowledge we now have that Iran will not even disguise their efforts to destabilize and eventually dominate Iraq we are duty bound to maintain a presence there for a good while. This raises the issue, and rightly, that many Muslims resent the idea of US troops anywhere in Mohammed-land. That is certainly true and must be factored into any decision. But we must be able to deter the active efforts Iran is making via Hezbollah, Hamas, Shia militias in Iraq, and the pipeline of explosive devices that are really the last danger to our troops in Iraq.
Now the idea that we are staying begs a question of under what circumstances. Is this a stalemate a la Korea? No, and even a federalized partition wouldn't make it so. Then we will have either won or lost. Michael Ledeen seems to be on the side of some of our military leaders in Iraq and I am there as well. What this moment needs is a way to declare victory. It needs to be well-planned, tied to a concrete event politically, and well-executed. Hopefully the passing of an Oil $$$ law will come to be because then we could broker some sort of national reconciliation gesture, which would be a great time for W to stand next to Maliki and hand him the ball.
I'm not kidding either, it is of vital importance that this be declared a clear victory for us and a defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq and all their other rat holes. Zawahiri declared Iraq the central front in their global jihad and they get to reap the sweet reward an ass-whippin' brings. They sent all the wannabe shahids to the head to head battle with the Great Satan and damned if the infidels didn't triumph. One of the main reasons we had to be steadfast during the difficult times we endured the past several years was because we couldn't afford to cede the battlefield and a victory to al Qaeda. Well.... equally important now is that we make sure they have to eat a defeat. Big and bold and brassy is how we should play it. Soldiers die so we can achieve a victory against the greatest foe of our time. We owe them a hell of a victory parade. I'm thinking the 4th of July in DC, anybody in?