A game of reduced expectations

Lee Hamilton on the shifting goals for Iraq: "We want to stay current."

By Tim Grieve
Published December 6, 2006 6:15PM (EST)

George W. Bush used to articulate some pretty ambitious goals for Iraq. "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East," he said back in November 2003, "will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." As late as last year, the president was still proclaiming that "freedom in Iraq will inspire reformers from Damascus to Tehran."

Now? Not so much. In the president's current formulation, the U.S. goal isn't to build Baghdad into some kind of shining city on the hill but rather to stand up an Iraq that can "govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself" without the indefinite support of U.S. troops.

The members of the Iraq Study Group have embraced that more modest -- but still maybe unattainable -- goal, and a reporter asked them today whether, in doing so, they haven't effectively conceded that Bush's initial goals for Iraq are now beyond reach.

The response?

Lee Hamilton: "We want to stay current."

James Baker: "This was the latest elaboration of the goal, and that's the one we're working with."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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George W. Bush Iraq Iraq War Middle East War Room