Professor Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment is your one-stop shop for information about the destruction in the Middle East (not just Iraq) is right on point in noting that 20 or 30,000 troops (the President talks about them with all the gravity you might talk about the latest Hollywood blockbusters) will not stem the sectarian violence in Iraq. As Army Chief of Staff Eric Shineseki predicted back in early 2003, and which accurate statement brought him a pink slip from Mr. Known Knowns, and also reportedly discouraged other Generals from speaking out about the threats to our position in Iraq-to the detriment of the US military and Iraq (and world security), if the US was really serious about securing the country and ensuring stability and that Iraqi society was secure (those who believe this, I have some stocks to sell you as well....) they would have sent nearer to half-a-million of our young men and women over to Iraq. Of course, it's good that not more have died, but obviously with the age ceiling raised in order to allow for more willing troops, the softening of the laws that prohibit criminals from serving in the military, and the myriad recruiting violations by recruiters less and less able to honestly attract recruits, there was no way that a force of this size could be gained. And unfortunately, in spite of the accuracy of predictions of folks like Shinseki and Thomas White, another guy who, as in the above link about the dismissal of Shinseki, lost his job for, you know, doing his job. Not that it is a good idea to send troops.
But if (perhaps the world's biggest if ever) we were serious about securing the country, that's the number of troops we'd need to do it. However, as Bush says, oh so often (though, oh-so-suprisingly, not as often anymore...) he'll listentothe Generals, except when, you know, he won't.
And with regard to Ted Rall's commentary, he's utterly right; the invasion of Iraq was such a bad idea from day one that no minor shifts in policy would ever truly recover the credibility of its architects. Only a complete renunciation and turn from it would begin to fix the situation. And unfortunately, with wonderful advisers like Henry Kissinger, and a stubbornness that hints strongly at Bush's authoritarian streak, one wouldn't know that Bush's mandate was soundly rejected during the November elections, or that his approval rating has been in the 30s for the last several months, or the fact that just today, he said "it's not as bad as it looks" (famous last words many times over and really, lowering the expectations far below what a civilized (?) modern country should expect).
As these writers have said, there is no easy solution to the problmes in Iraq and things are not going to get easier. They're just going to get harder. It's leaving now or it's leaving later in the manner of the final evacuation from Saigon.