National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley today promised "significant changes" to U.S. Iraq policy, but the Wall Street Journal reports in tomorrow's edition that senior White House officials say that the ouster of Don Rumsfeld was "misinterpreted as a sign that a significant shift is coming."
So there you have it. Significant changes but no significant shifts.
It's been almost a month now since the announcement of Rumsfeld's resignation. Most of that time has been occupied with a tragicomic guessing game about what our Iraq policy will be heading into 2007. What will the Iraq Study Group recommend? Will the President heed its recommendations? What is Robert Gates' thinking on Iraq? Will we make a last big push or moonwalk out?
The President and his top aides have been divorced from the reality of Iraq since even before the invasion, but I have a growing sense that our entire political system is similarly disconnected from the scope of the problem.
Most of the public discourse on Iraq is a peculiar blend of small-bore tactical discussions (20,000 more troops? 30,000?) and political odds-making (how will John McCain's call for more troops play in 2008?). In alarmingly low supply is serious discussion about the broader strategic objectives of U.S. policy. Absent such discussion, tactical decisions become random short-term fixes (at best), and domestic political support will never coalesce for the long slog still ahead.