Here are some polls on our Iraq policy. An overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of the presidents handling of the war. They also think the war was a mistake that has made us less safe. They dont think the president has a plan; theyre even more certain Congress doesnt. They think our government as a whole is pretty clueless on what to do now. Theres little support for immediate withdrawal, but a majority do favor gradual withdrawal by a certain date. The Americans who elected the Democratic Congress did in full knowledge that the result would probably be gradual withdrawal as the culmination of a stalemate. What they dont want is an indefinite stalemate.
People want or wanted to win in Iraq, dont think were toast if we dont, and no longer have confidence that we can. Maybe the president can turn that skepticism around some through inspiring confidence in his new plan. But the surge remains high-risk in the sense that it may create a new and maybe unrealistic expectation for quick and dramatic results.
Im reporting all this as a social scientist, and I wouldnt suggest for a moment that the president should abandon his admirable indifference to polling in the conduct of foreign policy.
But time is not the presidents friend here, and that may be, of course, a defect of democracy.