Today's news brings us the quarterly report on progress in Iraq... This is a Pentagon-produced, Congressionally-mandated report on the state of the war, and is often considered "propaganda," to use one law-makers phrase of choice. In the past, the report has painted a more glowing picture of the country than the ground truth would dictate.
Why, then, would the report issued today (and covering the last quarter of 2006) finally say, after so much semantic-related wrangling, that Iraq really is in a "civil war", and openly state that the last part of 2006 was the most violent in Iraq since 2003? The change in tone is striking.
The simple answer involves "managing expectations." It would not be too tough to believe that US military commanders (and the adminstration, for that matter), who just launched a controversial "surge" of some 30,000 troops, are hoping to set the bar as low as possible for the end of 2006 (conveniently in the "pre-surge" timeframe). Then, with even the remotest calming in Iraq, or the most modest calming of the situation during the first part of 2007, look for subsequent reports to point to improved conditions.
The Commander-in-Chief can then claim that the surge was the right strategy.