By DALE McFEATTERS
The 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have weighed in with their collective judgment on events in Iraq, and their findings, which should come as no surprise to anyone who keeps up with the news, are: The situation is bad and getting worse.
A declassified version of their National Intelligence Estimate became public this week and its pessimism seems to have silenced even that dwindling cadre of Bush cheerleaders who insist the war would be going well if only the press reported it that way.
However, the report did come close to laying out a timetable, saying the Iraqi government would be “hard-pressed” to bring about political reconciliation and have its police and army provide appreciably better security in the next year to 18 months — about the maximum length of time the American public would tolerate.
The Bush administration, obviously, would like to see progress much sooner. Indeed, said White House spokesman Tony Snow, “… what we have said is that people are going to need to see progress. I won’t give you an absolute timetable, but obviously the next six to eight months are going to be times when people expect to see something happening.”
To achieve some sort of demonstrable progress in Baghdad, the White House is counting on its 21,500 “surge” in troop numbers combined with new strategies for deployment, engagement and economic development.
Probably most members of Congress agree, publicly or privately, with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., who called this President Bush’s “last roll of the dice.”
A year from now the presidential primaries and caucuses will be under way and by then, Snow was asked, “Is Iraq going to look a lot different than it does today?”
“Sure hope so,” he said. So do we all.