MINI-BENCHMARKS….Tina Susman of the LA Times produces another grim report card on the surge today. A few individual neighborhoods in Baghdad and elsewhere might be safer than before, but sectarian cleansing is up, thousands of Iraqis are fleeing their homes, intra-Shiite violence is increasing, and overall figures on civilian casualties are far from encouraging:

Privately, many troops say the military buildup should have been able to do far more by now than cut the number of attacks in some neighborhoods.

Pouring troops into the capital is no doubt going to make some areas safer, said one Marine officer, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the upcoming assessment.

“I don’t know anyone who said, ‘Let’s have an argument on whether 20,000 troops can have an impact on some neighborhoods,’ ” the officer said. “I heard a debate about whether a 20,000-man surge would appreciably enhance the security of the Iraqi people and end the sectarian violence so political reconciliation could occur across the country, not just in Baghdad neighborhoods.”

And speaking of political reconciliation, here’s what Ambassador Ryan Crocker is reduced to saying about that: “There are…if you will, mini-benchmarks where things are happening.”

Mini-benchmarks. A phrase worth remembering, I’m sure.