The answer: when we leave.

See, the surge has given them a gift they’re squandering. And the Bush administration is beginning to set expectations for political progress accordingly. So for the time being, the focus is being placed on passing a national budget. That’s good, but I think we’re all slowly realizing that they only way they’re going to start making progress is if they’re forced to do it. And the only way that’s going to happen is if we leave.

From NY Times:

There have been signs that American influence over Iraqi politics is dwindling after the recent improvements in security — which remain incomplete, as shown by a deadly bombing Friday in Baghdad. While Bush officials once said they aimed to secure “reconciliation” among Iraq’s deeply divided religious, ethnic and sectarian groups, some officials now refer to their goal as “accommodation.”

“We can’t pass their legislation,” a senior American official in Baghdad said. “We can’t make them like each other. We can’t even make them talk to each other. Well, sometimes we can. But we can help them execute their budget.”

That’s right. We can’t make them do anything. Let that sink in.

And once the “surge” forces are drawn down in early 2008, the violence is very likely to return. Why waste any more time waiting for the government to get their act together? It’s obvious they’re not interested in following any sort of timeline, and that’s understandable. Iraq has to stand on its own, and if it appears that they’re bowing to our wishes it hurts the credibility of their decisions. Ultimately their policy has to stand free of American interventionism.

That’s why it’s not really a question of when the Iraqi government will wake up. At one point that was legitimate to ask, but we’ve been given the answer over and over again for a good couple years now.

No, the question now is when will our government wake up and quit wasting untold billions on a political system that’s waiting for us to leave anyway.

Let’s hope we get our answer soon.

Looks like one of the guys who led the troops in Iraq agrees…

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who led coalition forces through the first critical year of Iraq’s insurgency, said Saturday in a nationally broadcast radio address that President Bush had failed to “devise a strategy for victory” and that the time had come to withdraw U.S. troops.

Listen, I realize that withdrawing could mean that more Iraqis die, but starting a democracy is messy and that’s all sadly part of it. But if the politicians are refusing to take action, we have no other choice. Hell, let’s give them a year’s worth of what it would cost to have our military in there and see if they can’t rebuild themselves. It would save our troops from any more physical and mental harm and give the Iraqi government what they need to keep rebuilding.

But remember, it could mean more Iraqis die. We don’t know that’s the case yet. Because when Iraqis start taking the bullets and bombs by themselves, well, that could be game changing. Then it really would be Iraq against the terrorists, and I think you’d see a lot of insurgents melt back into society (and possibly even join the military) because the invading force has left.

One last question: who thinks our continuing presence there acts as a catalyst for progress instead of a deterrent?

Business When Will The Iraqi Government Wake Up?