By Thomas L. Friedman
Does this mean that Democrats in Congress who are trying to shut down the war and force a deadline should take the advice of critics and shut up and let the surge play out?
No, just the opposite. I would argue that for the first time we have -- by accident -- the sort of balanced policy trio that had we had it in place four years go might have spared us the mess of today. It's the Pelosi-Petraeus-Bush troika.
I hope the Democrats, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, keep pushing to set a deadline for withdrawal from
Because the Republicans controlled the House and Senate, and because many conservatives sat in mute silence the last four years, the administration could too easily ignore its critics and drag out policies in Iraq that were not working. With the Democrats back in Congressional control, that is no longer possible.
The other useful function Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues are performing is to give the president and Gen. David Petraeus, our commander in
Since Mr. Bush refuses to set a deadline, Speaker Pelosi is the next best thing. Do not underestimate how useful it is for General Petraeus to be able to say to Iraqi politicians: ''Look guys, Pelosi's mad as hell -- and she has a big following! I don't want to quit, but Americans won't stick with this forever. I only have a few months.''
Speaker Pelosi: Keep the heat on.
As for General Petraeus, I have no idea whether his military strategy is right, but at least he has one -- and he has stated that by ''late summer'' we should know if it's working. As General Petraeus told the BBC last week, ''I have an obligation to the young men and women in uniform out here, that if I think it's not going to happen, to tell them that it's not going to happen, and there needs to be a change.''
We need to root for General Petraeus to succeed, and hold him to those words if he doesn't -- not only for the sake of the soldiers on the ground, but also so that Mr. Bush is not allowed to drag the war out until the end of his term, and then leave it for his successor to unwind.
But how will General Petraeus or Congress judge if the surge is working? It may be obvious, but it may not be. It will likely require looking beneath the surface calm of any Iraqi neighborhood -- where violence has been smothered by the surge of
It will also likely require asking: Are the Shiite neighborhoods quieting down as a result of reconciliation or because their forces are just lying low so the U.S. will focus on whacking the Sunnis -- in effect, carrying out the civil war on the Shiites' behalf, so that when we leave they can dominate more easily?
When you're sitting on a volcano, it is never easy to tell exactly what is happening underneath -- or what will happen if you move. But those are the judgments we may soon have to make. In the meantime, since Bush is going to be Bush, let Pelosi be Pelosi and Petraeus be Petraeus -- and hope for the best. For now, we don't have much choice.