Before Gen. David Petraeus's report, and to give it a context of optimism, the president visited Iraq's Anbar province to underscore the success of the surge in making some hitherto anarchic areas less so. More significant, however, was that the president did not visit Baghdad. This underscored the fact that the surge has failed, as measured by the president's and Petraeus's standards of success. ***The U.S. military mission in Iraq, as Will well knows, is to run out the clock on the Bush administration and hand this quagmire over to its successor.
The purpose of the surge, they said, is to buy time -- "breathing space," the president says -- for Iraqi political reconciliation. Because progress toward that has been negligible, there is no satisfactory answer to this question: What is the U.S. military mission in Iraq?
Nothing more. Nothing less.