02/05/2007 05:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hillary Sets a Deadline -- Next Question: "Why Await the End of '08"?

Senator Hillary Clinton has, in the last week, moved her position on Iraq in two important ways: i) she said that Bush must not leave the war for the next President, i.e., get out by the end of '08; and ii) that if Bush does not, she will. Before, Hillary opposed setting a deadline, and was vague about what, in her mind, would trigger a troop withdrawal.

Right now, Hillary is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. For the frontrunner to have set a deadline, and to have guaranteed a troop withdrawal when the power to do so is hers, is a major step forward in the bringing Bush's disastrous policy to an end.

The next question for Hillary is this: just what is it that is going to be accomplished in Iraq in '07 and '08 that will make the withdrawal at the end of '08, the deadline you set for Bush, worth the loss of 24 battalions (we are losing one per month) of US troops to death and injury, worth the expenditure of another $100B in '08 on top of $100B in '07?

Unless someone can show that withdrawing at the end of 2008 will make the final outcome materially better than withdrawing in '07, then what is the moral (and poltical) basis for sending more troops, or even to retaining the troop levels we have, beyond the time that it takes for an orderly and safe troop redeployment? No one has met that burden of proof.

Part of that orderly and safe troop redeployment must include care for the Iraqis who cast their lot with us, including for them the opportunity to emigrate. It would be immoral, and a political disaster beyond what Bush has already created, to leave them to the vengeance of those who opposed the US occupation.

Now that we have her deadline on the table, the road is paved to ask why it should not be earlier rather than later.