Andy, those are all good points. Let me offer a comment and a question.
The comment: If we can succeed in stabilizing Baghdad, if the effective use of American force can make the capital a place no longer terrorized by suicide bombers that would be significant both militarily and psychologically.
Right now the honest argument for leaving Iraq is that we have met our match, we have been defeated by our enemies and it is time to recognize that reality (while of course also spinning that reality as “redeployment” or an “exit strategy” or some other euphemism that fools no one).
In other words, stabilizing Baghdad becomes a “proof of concept.” If we can’t do that, we probably can’t do anything much against determined enemies who haven’t the courtesy to wear uniforms, march in formation and abide by the Geneva Accords. By contrast, if we can do that, then surely we can clean the terrorists and insurgents out of other corners of Iraq as well – it’s just a matter of applying lessons learned and resources sufficient to the task.
The question: I agree we should focus on Syria and Iraq. Do we know what specific steps that implies? I assume that in the near term we would not expect to achieve regime change but only to inflict damage, to show – finally – that a price will be paid by those who murder Americans.