President Bush, sensing the fragility of his strategy in Iraq even in his own administration, is shifting his rhetoric and possibly gearing up for a change in strategy (though such words have been written many times before.) As Adam has detailed, Democrats still struggle to force any significant change of course in the war, but the numbers continue to favor them even after the PR onslaught that has proceeded the Patraeus report.
The security situation in Iraq remains desperate. "Metrics" aside, the troop buildup has failed to bring an end to sectarian fighting or stopped the slow motion ethnic cleansing of Baghdad. This definitive McClatchy report finds little real improvement in the security situation; the Iraqi Interior Ministry claims to be unable to provide definitive civilian casualties, but one official reports nearly 3,000 Iraqi deaths in August alone. Iran, dealing with Kurdish militants, has fired artillery into northern Iraq several times over the last month and is now threatening a more significant intervention. Iran is also hesitant at continuing talks with the U.S. over the security situation in Iraq in the face of escalating threats over their nuclear program. Bombings in Baghdad continue.
UPDATE: If I may have a moment of editorializing, I want to point readers to this passage in one of the Post articles I link to above, on in-fighting in the Bush administration over the surge strategy:
As Petraeus settled into his new command, he decided to press for 8,000 additional support troops beyond the 21,500 combat forces the president had committed. Just a week earlier, Gates had told Congress that only 2,000 or 3,000 more might be needed. As he reviewed a briefing sheet in preparation for more testimony, Gates was annoyed to see a larger request buried on the page. He fumed that "this is going to make us look like idiots," said a defense official. But Gates got Petraeus the troops.
More critical was the defense secretary's decision to extend deployments in Iraq from 12 months to 15 months. The generals told Gates that the extra brigades flowing to Iraq had stretched the military close to the breaking point. "We ran out of forces, that's what happened," said a senior Army official. To keep the buildup going, and to offer predictability for troops and families, Gates approved the longest overseas combat deployments since World War II.
In doing so, Gates -- who three months earlier said no one thought the surge would last 18 months -- enabled it to last almost that long. Although that was not the stated reason for the deployment extension, in effect the change redefined the buildup into a longer mission than first envisioned.
This is why the President can no longer be trusted with the mission in Iraq. They sold the surge in Iraq as a mission of more limited duration than it's now turned out to be, and one requiring less troops than they now have approved for combat. They will take a mile when they're not even given an inch, and spin the facts to make it seem as if that's what they asked for all along, while moving the goalposts around to make it appear as if there's been some progress. This is why-rightly-a majority of Americans no longer trust the President with the war, and see no real progress on the ground in Iraq (and neither do the Iraqis, though that hardly seems to matter ot the war proponents who desire to make them more "secure.") It is into this vacuum of leadership that the Democrats must now step. Stone-walling Republicans are making it difficult to get any real change in Iraq, but their time is almost up. The report will be delivered today, the American people will be unpersuaded, and then it will be time to push the GOP on the war until they relent or admit to their willingness to lose even more dramatically next year as Americans correctly blame them for the deaths of even more troops in Iraq.