BENCHMARK ROUND-UP.

BENCHMARK ROUND-UP. Nobody with any sense is pleased by the President's performance.

Winslow Wheeler, Defense Tech:

While the Iraqis are assessed in the White House's report to have achieved "satisfactory progress" on only eight of 18 "benchmarks" (six are rated "unsatisfactory"; two are given mixed ratings, and two are rated unable to be rated), it is painfully clear from reading the report that the "satisfactory" assessments are graded on a sharp curve. On political issues, any change - even a decision to delay a decision - is deemed "satisfactory." On military questions, characteristics that would mean a military unit is unfit to fight in the American Army (such as the three brigades the Iraqis barely managed to cobble together to deploy to Baghdad) are deemed "satisfactory" in this report.

Fred Kaplan, Slate:

Yet a close look at the 25-page report reveals a far more dismal picture and a deliberately distorted assessment. The eight instances of "satisfactory" progress are not at all satisfactory by any reasonable measure—or, in some cases, they indicate a purely procedural advance. The eight "unsatisfactory" categories concern the central issues of Iraqi politics—the disputes that must be resolved if Iraq is to be a viable state and if the U.S. mission is to have the slightest chance of success.

Anthony Cordesman, CSIS

It is clear, however, that the Iraqi government has not really met the Bush administration’s benchmarks in any major area. Seen from a more nuanced perspective, actual progress as has been more limited and had often had tenuous meaning unless it can eventually be shown that a faltering legislative start will be put into practice over the months and years to come in ways that Iraq’s major factions will accept.

Like Matt, I have to wonder what the point of all this kabuki is. No opponent of the war is going to be convinced by this, and the populace in general seems to have conclusively turned against the war. It comes down, I suppose, to an effort to give Senate Republicans some political cover until September. After that, I have no idea what they plan to do.

--Robert Farley

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