The surge the president of the United States launched last January has failed. By tacitly conceding that there has been no political progress in Iraq since then, Mr. Bush admits as much, but asks for more time. He raises some important fears (and some wildly exaggerated ones) of the consequences of withdrawal. What he has said nothing about are the positive reasons to keep on trying. That is what the upcoming debate must address: more time to achieve what?

The purpose of the surge was an enlarged security force so that, as the president said, over time, “daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress.” That progress was to include a raft of fundamental political changes. Al Qaeda was a relatively minor factor. (“As we make these changes, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda.… Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq.”) Until midsummer, the administration insisted that the escalated military effort was not to reduce violence per se, but to reduce it because political reconciliation would follow.

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About the Author
Jessican Tuchman Mathews was appointed president of the Carnegie Endowment in 1997. Her career includes posts in the executive and legislative branches of government, in management and research in the nonprofit arena, and in journalism.