I have no idea whether the President's new plan for Iraq will work. A lot may turn on whether the Iraqi government will rise above the sectarian fray and there is not a lot of reason to be optimistic about that. On the other hand, I think that any significant steps to make that happen are likely to take place - or have taken place - behind closed doors.
But the Democrat's response - at least as reflected in Durbin's speech and the statement released last night by Pelosi and company - is shockingly insubstantial. We should announce our departure because then the Iraqis will realize that they must help themselves.
On the one hand, I suppose that we should be happy that the Dems have discovered self-reliance. I have not often heard them agree that the withdrawal of government support might induce the recipient to help himself.
But in this case, it seems like a nothing more than a dodge to avoid admitting that what they want to do is admit defeat and quit. I don't know if the Iraqi government is up to controlling sectarian violence but my guess is that it certainly won't be until the thugs (both sunni and shiite are pacified to a far greater extent than is currently the case). If the US announces that it is about to bug, my guess is that Mailiki and company would see there path to survival as shiite "victory." Peace will no longer look like an option.
Bush's statement that our commitment in Iraq is not open-ended is true whether he meant it or not. While there are not - and should not be - deadlines for withdrawal, there are, whether the administration sets them or not, deadlines for showing progress. While things may get worse before they get better, there is going to have to be some demonstrable progress in 2007. If there is not, both parties will run away from the war in 2008.
The challenge may turn out to be demonstrating that this progress has been made since it is unlikely to be the kind of victories that conventional wars produce. We won't "take" anyplace because we already hold them. What we will do is make them safe and that will be reflected in an absence of news.