The challenge for Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker when they testify this week will be to tell us what we don’t already know. The truth is obvious to all Americans: Iraq is beset by sectarianism, and is no closer to political reconciliation today than it was when the surge started. In that crucial sense, it is obvious that the surge has failed. There are grounds for doubting even the more narrow claim that the surge has contributed to greater security in Baghdad. Some recent reports suggest that the ethnic cleansing campaign waged by Shiites against Sunnis has largely run its course. Meanwhile, fighting has erupted between competing Shiite factions in Karbala and Basra.
The Bush administration’s point people in Iraq are expected to claim that, with additional time, political reconciliation might still take hold. But we have heard such predictions before and Americans are rightfully skeptical of such claims. If the Bush administration does not put forward a comprehensive plan for removing all troops from Iraq by the end of 2008, Congress should force the president’s hand.