In his latest article, Fareed Zakaria proposes some things Senator Obama should say about Iraq. Key excerpts:
All today’s gains could disappear when American troops leave—and they will have to leave one day. The disagreement I have with the Bush administration is that it seems to believe that time will magically make these gains endure. It won’t. Without political progress, once the United States reduces its forces, the old mistrust and the old militias will rise up again. Only genuine political power-sharing will create a government and an Army that are seen as national and not sectarian. And that, in turn, is the only path to make Iraq viable without a large American military presence.[…]
[…]My objective remains to end American combat involvement in Iraq and to do so expeditiously. At some point we are going to have to take off the training wheels in Iraq. I believe that we must have a serious plan that defines when that point is reached. If we define success as an Iraq that looks like France or Holland, we will have to stay indefinitely, continue spending $10 billion a month and keep 140,000 troops in combat. And that is neither acceptable nor sustainable. We will have to accept as success a muddy middle ground—an Iraq that is a functioning, federal democracy with a central government and an army able to tackle the bulk of challenges they face.
Defining what victory looks like is the key policy metric here. Any politician who won’t tell you what victory looks like (or what sort of state–roughly–Iraq should be when we leave) is asking for us to spend lives and resources based on vaguely defined goals like “security” and “stability”¹. Loosely defined terms do not a foreign policy make.
¹ Or your personal (but not publicly defined!) concept of an ideal democratic state. Your actual Iraqi democratic results may vary.