Whether Congress made a mistake in authorizing Iraq's liberation is a separate question from what to do now. Yet war opponents act as if favoring a precipitous withdrawal logically and necessarily follows from regretting the decision to liberate.
Why? Part of it, we suppose, is a sort of binary simplemindedness: It was bad to go in, ergo it would be good to get out. Real life is more complicated. It may be that it was a mistake to go in but a precipitous withdrawal would compound the error.
But maybe those who argue for withdrawal seek precisely to compound the error. Failure in Iraq would vindicate the position of those who originally argued that the war would be a mistake. Likewise for those who supported the war but later change their minds--they may be cynical opportunists, but they may also have the zeal of a convert. If America loses the war, they win the argument.
And defeat in Iraq would vindicate not only opposition to Iraq but an entire worldview - what we've called the worldview of baby-boom liberalism. America's defeat in Vietnam was a triumph for baby-boom liberalism - a triumph that some seem never to have given up trying to relive.
There comes a time in life to grow up, get over yourself, and face the fact that your actions have consequences.
This isn't a time to debate, again, how we got where we are; it's not the moment to re-fight the question of whether we should be here. It is the time to recognize that we are the only thing standing between Iraq having the space to grow strong and independent, or casting the region into a wider war. We will have to consider Petraeus' report carefully, and look hard at what he suggests. We must also consider the consequences of our choices.