The big news today has been General Petraeus's appearance before Congress to give his progress report on the troop surge. Unsurprisingly, it's been enough for the Republicans to hail the move as a success, but doesn't give enough meat to the Democrats to ease up on their criticism.
Now, I really don't know what the best course of action in Iraq is. I fear the shit-storm that's going to erupt when foreign troops leave the country; it's going to be messy, deadly, and proof that imposing democracy at the point of a gun, if it can ever succeed, requires considerable forethought. And it's a problem that we have created, and we owe it to the people of Iraq to give them as much help as we can.
Then again, I'm not sure how helpful the foreign presence in Iraq is, or exactly what it's achieving. Patrols are seemingly designed in such a way as to protect the lives of servicemen first, and target the insurgents second. If US and UK troops really aren't achieving anything in terms of creating stable institutions in Iraq, and reports seem to suggest that they aren't, then their presence is more of a rallying cry for insurgents than it is helpful to security. But if we are to pull out, then this has to be the rationale - that the presence of troops is doing more harm than good. We broke Iraq, we bought the problem. And we've got to find some way to make it better.
Let's not pretend that the report today was anything other than a political stunt, though. Even though it's a military man giving the report, the timetable that he suggests is just too good to be true. According to the BBC, it suggests that marines will start coming home in September next year, and there may be as many as 30,000 troops home last year.
September? So that'll be the home straight in the 2008 Presidential race, then. And with pretty much every Democrat standing against the troop surge, and calling for the troops to come home, the fact that the Bush administration is actually going to be doing this before the election will knock out, or at the very least, undermine significantly, what was going to be a key part of any Democrat platform. This smacks of political strategy. It's just too closely timed to the election timetable to be anything else.