Looking for an Exit

Even as the White House insists all is going well in Iraq, dismay at the continued inability of U.S.-led coalition forces and the new Iraqi government to suppress the insurgency is spreading in Congress.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., quoted in The Washington Post, said, “The war has gone on longer and more violently than people envisioned.” And now there is growing talk, even among supporters of both the president and the war, that the administration needs to come up with some kind of exit strategy.

The rumblings have reached the White House, and presidential aides say the president plans a more aggressive defense of his conduct of the war in the coming weeks. But there will be no fundamental change in the strategy of training Iraqi security forces and holding the interim government to the timetable for drafting a constitution and holding a referendum followed by national elections for a permanent government.

But some members of Congress want to take matters a little further. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and one other Republican and two Democrats have introduced a nonbinding resolution calling on President Bush to start bringing U.S. troops home by Oct. 1, 2006.

Jones insists that it is not an end date, but the danger is that the insurgents will believe that it is and think that their insurgency is won if they can hang on that long. But in fairness to Jones, if the Iraqi government is not firmly in control of the country by then, we have a truly serious problem on our hands.

It is perhaps coincidence, but the October deadline is one month before the congressional elections. Recent polls have shown support for Bush’s handling of the war hovering just over the 40 percent mark and 6 in 10 Americans saying we should bring home some or all of our troops in Iraq.

Members of Congress, mostly Republicans, understandably don’t want to face the voters having to justify their support for a war that shows no signs of ending. Upbeat presidential speeches won’t do it. Without positive developments on the ground in Iraq, congressional unease will spread and support for the administration’s conduct of the war will weaken further.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com.)