I'm going to make this short, since no one reads my diaries anyway. I was watching Late Edition for some reason this weekend and saw General Abizaid wax sunnily on the prospects of success in Iraq. I believe the analogy this time was that we were at "mile 21 of a marathon," and then Wolfie helpfully pointed out that a marathon is 26.2 miles and then did some on-air calculations for his next guest, Sen. Carl Levin, to help him check his pulse.
Actually, that got me to thinking -- is this metaphorical marathon 26.2 miles? We may be at mile 21, but wars don't have neat finish lines.
How do we (or rather, how does Bush) define "success" in Iraq? Aside from the aspirational end goal of a peaceful, free, democratic, oil-revenue generating Republic of Iraq. Presumably this is a free Iraq without US (or any) troops.
At some point, we have to take off the training wheels to Iraq's democracy. How many weeks of insurgent-free activity do we need before this happens? Who needs to surrender or be captured? Does it all depend on the Iraqi parliament? Does it depend on the UN? The alternative is a permanent US troop presence in Iraq, which, by definition, is not "success."
It is important that Dems take the lead on defining success. That way, we are prepared when Repubs accuse us of being "armchair quarterbacks" with "no plan".
This administration is notorious for moving the goalposts and finish lines. If we are still in Iraq under a Democratic president, they will face enormous pressure to keep the troops there just as we did in Vietnam: no one wants to be the one to lose the war.
To avoid this, we need to have some mileposts for success in Iraq, short of the "finish line" of a free, prosperous Iraq.
The goal has to be a drawdown of US forces. We don't have to set firm timetables, but we should, now, be setting forth the parameters for a staged drawdown, based on certain future events.
The upside to this approach is that by defining success, we also force the administration to define failure.