The administration is not willing to commit to an all-out effort to defeat the insurgents in Iraq, and is equally unwilling to reverse course and bring the troops home. Most Americans are abandoning the idea that the war can be "won." Polls are showing that they're tired of the conflict and its relentlessly mounting toll. It's hard to imagine that the population at large will be willing to sacrifice thousands of additional American lives over several more years in pursuit of goals that remain as murky as ever.And that is exactly why you don't get into something as serious as a war with no plan. There really is no easy way to extract ourselves from the Iraq tar baby.
Ask a thousand different suits in Washington why we're in Iraq and you'll get a thousand different answers. Ask how we plan to win the war, and you'll get a blank stare.
UPDATE: Juan Cole is on the same page today:
President Bush is doing a high wire act without a net in Iraq. He cannot increase US troop strength in hopes of destroying the guerrilla movement, because the US does not have the extra troops. He also cannot keep 138,000 US troops in Iraq for another year without risking destroying the all-volunteer army. So he has to draw down. But if he does that too fast or in a strategically flat-footed way, the guerrills could kill off the new elected government and through Iraq-- and the oil-producing Gulf region-- into massive turmoil. The Bush administration is therefore proposing a rolling withdrawal, without fixed deadlines or targets, but simply bringing out US units when Iraqi units can take over. (The problem with this strategy is a) that it can be thwarted by a simple ratcheting up of guerrilla attacks, requiring delays in US drawdowns and b) the Iraqi troops probably are not going to be ready for 5 years.)