Ambassador Ryan Crocker recently described the surge as a strategy designed to "buy time" for the Maliki government to make political progress, but the domestic effect may have been for Bush to buy time with his own party.
The GOP has thus far presented a fairly unified front standing behind President Bush in rejecting Democratic pressure to establish a schedule to withdraw troops from Iraq, but some recent public comments by Republican members of Congress indicate there may be an expiration date on unqualified support.
The Administration mantra in rejecting Democratic activism has been to argue that Petraeus deserves the chance to allow the surge to work. The full complement of additional troops should arrive in Baghdad by mid-June, and the General has committed to return to Washington in late September to give a full progress report to Congress.
This weekend, House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH) indicated that the party will expect Bush to offer a new strategy if the report does not show the troop surge is improving the security situation.
"Over the course of the next three months or four months, we'll have some idea how well the plan is working," Boehner told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "Early signs are indicating there is clearly some success on a number of fronts. But...by the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?"
His response came after Wallace read him a statement from fellow Republican Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), a stalwart supporter of Bush, who recently said, "Republicans are going to give Bush an opportunity, but if it isn't working in September, a lot of members will be very nervous."
Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-IN) voiced support of Boehner's position but qualified it by adding that US military would maintain a presence in Iraq for a long time, even if the American government made a shift in strategy.
"I think the congressman is correct," Lugar said. "Gen. Petraeus will be back. He'll make a report. Some things will go well. Some things will not go so well, but we'll still have an obligation."
The liberal blog ThinkProgress today posted an array of recent quotes by GOP lawmakers that they contend shows "conservatives in Congress are breaking ranks," though not all of the cited Republicans could be considered from the conservative wing.
ThinkProgress does cite Rep. Mike Castle (DE), a moderate himself, who recently offered his assessment of the general party outlook.
“I think a lot of us feel that the time has come for us to look for solutions to bring this war to a close,” Castle said. “And I don’t think that’s just a feeling among moderate Republicans but among Republicans in general.” Castle said Republicans of all stripes “are very reluctant to put in dates on our Army” but said that other ideas, including Blunt’s talk of a “consequences package” for the Iraqi government, could bring the parties together.
Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-LA), who has opposed a timeline for withdrawal but supported benchmarks for performance, told the LA Times last week, “We have to be engaged developing our own proposals and not just going along with what the executive branch is doing.”