The Bush administration has two years to solve the problem of Iraq. Despite their campaign rhetoric, the Democrats are going to give the president more leeway than one might expect. They do not want to be blamed in ’08 for the carnage that would follow a withdrawal of U.S. troops. Is a surge of troops the way to save Iraq?

Yes, says historian Victor Davis Hanson, but numbers alone won’t help:

“There have been a number of anomalies in this war, as a brilliant American tactical victory in removing Saddam has not translated into quick strategic success. But one of the most worrisome developments is the narrowing of the recent debate to the single issue of surging troops, as if the problem all along has just been one of manpower.

“It hasn’t. The dilemma involves the need to fight an asymmetrical war of counter-insurgency that hinges on what troops do, rather than how many are engaged. We have gone from a conventional victory over Saddam Hussein to an asymmetrical struggle against jihadist insurgents to what is more or less third-party policing of random violence between Sunnis and Shiites.”

Unless Islamic jihadists decide that, what the heck, we should all be friends, we’ll be fighting asymmetrical wars for a long time to come. We’d best not lose the first one of the century. Hanson offers seven requirements (in addition to the surge) for winning. Here is number six, at which Democrats might squawk ( but will permit):

“Emphasize offense. Our new forces are not going to ‘patrol’ or ‘stabilize’ things by their ‘presence’ or ‘reassurance,’ but rather are being sent to Iraq for one purpose: to hunt down and kill or capture terrorists to ensure public confidence that the Americans and the new Iraqi government are going to win. And fence-sitters should make the necessary adjustments.”

I hope the president will digest and embrace the plan embodied in “Choosing Victory,” which was put forward by military expert Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and retired General Jack Keane.

It also calls for more troops, but it also argues that a shift in strategy is required. Making Iraqis secure is the first order of the day — if the “insurgency” can’t harm and frighten citizens then ipso facto, the insurgency fails. This is almost a tautology. It’s that obvious.

Selling any plan will take all President Bush’s rhetorical skills. He can be great, but lately his powers of persuasion have not been the best. Even at the Ford funeral, his remarks were pedestrian. He needs to regain his former vigor, and maybe give former speechwriter Mike Gerson a ring a ding.