Leaving Iraq

Despite President George W. Bush’s recent attacks on his Democratic critics, it is the loss of confidence among Republicans and the public at large in the president’s credibility and conduct of the war in Iraq that is now driving the debate about how long U.S. troops should remain there. The president claims that those calling for withdrawal want to “cut and run,” but he has yet to put forward a plausible strategy for winning. Without a strategy, “staying the course” will not change the outcome.

Polls show that a clear majority of Americans now think the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and that Bush misled the country in making the case for war. The president’s weakened political position was most dramatically illustrated in November when the Senate passed a resolution requiring the administration to give a quarterly report to Congress on the progress being made in Iraq. The bill was supported overwhelmingly by Republicans as well as Democrats, and sponsored by John Warner, the conservative Republican chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee. Warner has said that the next 180 days will prove decisive in testing the legitimacy and stability of the new Iraqi government. Needless to say, progress in Iraq over the next six months is also likely to prove decisive in determining the fate of Republicans in next year’s midterm elections.

Only days after the Senate’s action, Congressman Jack Murtha (D-...

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