"No one knows how to define progress in such a mixed-up situation," said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia and a member of the subcommittee that overseas military spending. "We're having trouble measuring it. Imagine building a house without a ruler."
Mr. Kingston, who holds weekly breakfast meetings with the Republican "theme team," a group of about 30 lawmakers, is trying. The star of last week's session, held in the basement of the Capitol, was the deputy prime minister of Iraq, Barham Salih, a Kurd. But equally important to Mr. Kingston was the other guest: Jason Campbell, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who is a co-author of something called the Iraq Index.