A Republican deadline in Iraq

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Republican war supporters have given Bush their own deadline to show progress in Iraq — six to nine months.

Several leading Senate Republicans who support President Bush’s troop-boosting plan for Iraq say they will give the administration and the Iraqis about six months to show significant improvement.

“I don’t think this war can be sustained for more than six months if in fact we don’t see some progress,â€Â? Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Wednesday. Until this month, he was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Roberts’ comments came two days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the new U.S. military push was the Iraqis’ “last chance.â€Â?

“This needs to be successful over the next six to nine months,â€Â? McConnell said in an interview Monday with Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto. “And if not, we’re going to have to go in a different direction.â€Â?

There you have it. As I’ve said before, Bush has one last chance to succeed in Iraq, because both Democrats and Republicans want it off the table for the 2008 elections.

These are war supporters, mind you, and their work is largely an attempt to derail the anti-surge resolutions making their way through Congress. But it’s a sign of how far the debate has shifted that the hawkish alternative is a six-month deadline.

Speaking of resolutions, war opponents appear to have found bipartisan common ground.

Two senators, a Republican and a Democrat, leading separate efforts to put Congress on record against President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq joined forces Wednesday, agreeing on a nonbinding resolution that would oppose the plan and potentially embarrass the White House.

Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., had been sponsoring competing measures opposing Bush’s strategy of sending 21,500 more U.S. troops to the war zone, with Warner’s less harshly worded version attracting more Republican interest. The new resolution would vow to protect funding for troops while keeping Warner’s original language expressing the Senate’s opposition to the buildup…. It lacks Levin’s language saying the troop increase is against the national interest, and it drops an earlier provision by Warner suggesting Senate support for some additional troops.

Works for me. The important thing is to get Congress on record opposing the plan. Though I hope Bush’s “surge” works, I doubt it will, and Congress needs to get out front on the issue to avoid being accused of armchair quarterbacking with hindsight. The resolutions lay the groundwork for later, more robust action if such proves necessary. And it will give Bush a huge cudgel to use against Congress if he turns out to be successful.

Debate on the measure could begin Monday.