What's fascinating is the effect of the surge on the political reaction to Obama's proposal to scale down the U.S. presence to 55,000 troops by August 2010. It has received bipartisan support in the United States. Iraqi officials have by and large endorsed it (though see here and scroll down). Obama has even earned the always-crucial Foreign Policy blogger vote.
Think about this for a second. If I had told you two years ago that there would be a broad domestic and international consensus on U.S. strategy in Iraq, you would have laughed me off the Foreign Policy web site.
Ricks argues that the surge has not led to political achievements in Iraq, and he may very well be right. What it has accomplished, however, is changing the political optics in three crucial ways. First, it has given Republicans cover for supporting a withdrawal, arguing that it is being done from a position of strength rather than weakness. Second, it has blunted the Democrats' zeal for immediate withdrawal. So long as things in Iraq are going relatively well, the political pressure to DO SOMETHING NOW! has abated. Finally, the surge has given the Iraqi government the confidence to believe that a significant U.S. drawdown will not lead them back to the abyss.
I don't know whether the withdrawal will actually prove to be good policy -- but the fact that we've reached a political consensus that it is good policy is nothing short of astounding.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.