President Bush held up Israel as a model for defining success in Iraq, saying Thursday that the goal of the U.S. mission there is not eliminating attacks but enabling a democracy that can function despite continuing violence.
With his Iraq policies under increasing fire from the American public and lawmakers from both parties, Bush went to the U.S. Naval War College here to declare progress. As the president pleaded for patience, his top national security aide went to Capitol Hill to meet with a key Republican critic.
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a lengthy floor speech earlier this week contending that Bush's war strategy won't have time to work and that U.S. troops should start leaving now.
The White House thought it had until an expected September assessment by military commanders to deal with political fallout on the unpopular war.
But criticism is mounting now. A majority of senators now believes that troops should start coming home within the next few months. And House Republicans are calling to revive the independent Iraq Study Group to give the nation new options.
Bush sought in his speech to put the brakes on these efforts. He said that success in Iraq would usher in "a dawn of a Middle East where leaders are at peace with their own people, where children enjoy the opportunities their parents only dreamed of, and where America has new allies in the cause of freedom."
He characterized the fight in Iraq, where tensions between Shiite and Sunni factions have kept the country in a cycle of violence, as primarily one against al-Qaida forces and their use of grisly suicide attacks and car bombings to sow chaos and despair.
"They understand that sensational images are the best way to overwhelm the quiet progress on the ground," Bush said.