Kansas Eagle: Time for a new phase in Iraq
Kansas City Eagle
July 10, 2007

President Bush must face reality: It's time for a different strategy in Iraq, one that acknowledges America's limited power to determine Iraq's future.

Most observers agree that the surge of U.S. troops has failed so far to make a decisive difference in Iraq's chaotic civil war. There simply aren't enough troops. And Iraqi security forces have proved inadequate to the task.

Despite some progress in reducing sectarian violence, the past weekend's devastating bombings -- some of the bloodiest of the war -- showed that we face a potent and adaptable enemy.

Many Americans, including members of The Eagle editorial board, wanted to give the surge a chance to work.

Bush argued in January that the surge would give the Iraqi government breathing space to accomplish key goals, such as holding provisional elections and agreeing on power-sharing arrangements. But the Iraqi leaders have failed to meet any of those benchmarks -- nor do they seem willing to do the hard work and compromise needed to achieve them.

American leaders must now focus on how to draw down U.S. troops and prepare for an eventual withdrawal, as outlined last year by the Iraq Study Group.

At the time, the bipartisan group's advice was largely rejected by the Bush team and some in Congress as defeatist, but a careful drawdown that forces the Iraqis to step up appears to be the only realistic option left for an Iraq endgame.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is said to be quietly advocating such a reduction of troops.

Could a drawdown be dangerous? Yes. A too-precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops could leave a security vacuum and invite even worse regional chaos.

But America cannot prosecute an open-ended war without achievable goals and without the support of the American people. In recent weeks, several key Republicans, including Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana and Pete Domenici of New Mexico, have publicly expressed their loss of confidence in Bush's strategy.

Instead of waiting until September, lawmakers are now looking to Sunday as a political tipping point -- that's when Congress receives an interim report that is expected to show little progress on Iraq goals.

The president last week asked the country for "patience" and more sacrifice on Iraq. But he's gone to the well too often, without delivering results. America's patience has worn thin on a mission that seems to chase ever-changing, unrealistic goals.

The sacrifices are all too real and painful.

Bush needs to chart a course that brings many of our troops home and redeploys others to fight in a more effective way in the war on terror.

For the editorial board, Randy Scholfield

Original Text