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March 20, 2006

Iraq: Anniversary Waltz to the Exits
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

We have had close to a week for the White House, the media and the blogosphere to wallow in Iraq:  Three Years On storylines.  I have yet to see a story that doesn't fall into the "are we winning/losing?" rubric. 

And I have yet to see what I think is the real story -- three years on, Americans across the political spectrum, including quite a few "experts" and "influentials" are done with Iraq.

Why do I say that?

The invaluable but inaccessible Wall Street Journal quotes GOP pollster Bill McInturff reading public opinon on Iraq thusly:

"For Americans, it looks more and more like...we can't stop or change it," Mr. McInturff says.

McInturff's most recent polling (bipartisan, with Peter Hart, for NBC/Wall Street Journal) says 52 percent of Americans say we’ve accomplished “all we can” in Iraq; 61% say we should reduce troop levels, a new high for that view.

But it isn't just the public which thinks this.  Did you catch Senator Hagel saying this weekend that

we have had a low-grade civil war going on in Iraq, certainly the last six months, maybe the last year. Our own generals have told me that privately.

Peggy Noonan wrote last week that President Bush had turned into Lyndon B. Johnson.  OK, so her immediate subject was the federal budget -- but she of all people knows the allusion she's making.

Then there's the strange case of Max Boot, who published an article in the National Interest asserting that we are winning and then, to his credit, headed off to see for himself.  He landed in Iraq just before the explosion at the Golden Mosque and its aftermath.  His experience led him to ask the following question:

Which is more important—the signs of progress that mostly pass unheralded, or the continuing woes splashed across newspaper front pages? I left Iraq more uncertain than when I arrived.

I submit to you that to ask that question is to answer it -- and it rings in the ears as one looks at the Administration's anniversary push of op-eds and speeches over the weekend.

Yesterday we had Secretary Rumsfeld telling us in the Washington Post that "the terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq."  I wish he had appended some evidence of that -- it isn't what the International Crisis Group's recent report "In Their Own Words" thinks that the insurgents believe.

And today we have just had the President in Cleveland assuring us of his optimism that victory will be achieved, albeit after more "days of sacrifice and tough fighting."

There's a critical need -- for the commentators who enjoy calling for blood, for smart Republicans and for progressives still scrambling around for an alternative position -- to think hard about what the public mood tells us about the limits of the possible.  Note, I said nothing about smart, just or fair here.  These are ugly, sad calculations.  We have to make them because of the failures and hubris of this Administration.  But someone is going to have to make them.

1.  I love calling for smarter/more honest use of aid money, but honesty requires us to suspect that, politically, there isn't going to be more reconstruction money.  Why?  Because no one, Republican or Democrat, will vote for it in an election year, and the White House will not give any cover for it.  Plans that hinge on reconstruction funding will require clever (international?) new sources of funding, or even more clever (?) ways of leveraging it out of this Congress -- or they are just fantasies.

2.  Troops in/out:  Jim Hoagland reminds us today that, despite the curious silence in President Bush's speeches on the topic, the Administration has a clear plan to cut casualties and get troops out of the cities and out of Iraq before the elections.  So, again, debating preferred patterns of troop deployment is very interesting... but that tank has already left the garrison.

3.  What constitutes success?  Say that those poll numbers, and the likely November election results, give you somewhere between 6 and 18 months of significant troop involvement.  I'd really like to see experts who believe we should stay -- from the AEI guys (you too, Michelle Pletka) through Ken Pollack on to Juan Cole -- start talking about what we could possible accomplish in a timeframe like that.  Then we could challenge this Administration to get it done.   

4.  What's the politically-smart stance?  I submit that elected progressives (and those who want to get elected) need a two-track stance.  Points one and two above demonstrate how the Administration pre-empts the political benefit from smart forward-looking policies.  So maybe, just maybe, the political stance can focus less on the details of a plan -- but behind the scenes, there had better be more focus on that than ever.  Because, even if progressives take back some part of government this fall, it seems rather unlikely that public opinion will grant a longer time to make yet another start in Iraq.

Remeber, I didn't say this was just.  But I am saying that I don't see a whole lot of people and institutions with power over this Administration who want to see us "persist until we prevail."  And smart progressives and conservatives alike can either note those conditions and try to shape policy to work with them -- or we will be shaped by them, in even uglier ways.


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And smart progressives and conservatives alike can either note those conditions and try to shape policy to work with them -- or we will be shaped by them, in even uglier ways.

Since everybody's afraid of being accused of "losing Iraq," it looks like the current "smart progressive" strategy is waiting for our Army to break.

Even if Dems win the Congress, there's not much they can do unless they're willing to stop payment on the check for this war -- and I haven't seen much evidence that they'd have the guts to do that.

Say that those poll numbers, and the likely November election results, give you somewhere between 6 and 18 months of significant troop involvement. I'd really like to see experts who believe we should stay -- from the AEI guys (you too, Michelle Pletka) through Ken Pollack on to Juan Cole -- start talking about what we could possible accomplish in a timeframe like that.

The idea that we can acieve anything of significance in 6 to 18 months -- when the Iraqis know that this is the limit of our endurance -- is a fantasy.

(BTW, why are Michelle Pletka and Kenneth Pollack still considered "experts" on this region?)

The idea that we can "win" this war if only we keep up the confidence of the American people is flawed. The idea of withholding estimates of Iraqi casualties is flawed, because nothing stops people from posting a website with consensus estimates.

The way to keep the confidence is to give a detailed, accurate reason for going to war in the first place, and only go if the rationale demands it. If you can't provide a convincing accurate rationale, you shouldn't lead the country into war.


My mommy always said, "It's not important whether you win or lose, but rather how you played the game". Does that mean thousands of US officials are basically war criminals and most "Iraq experts" immoral fools?

Success is all how you define it, right? Anyone catch the Onion's latest headline?

"Rumsfeld: Iraqis Now Capable Of Conducting War Without U.S. Assistance"
March 17, 2006 | Issue 42•12

WASHINGTON, DC—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that escalating violence in Iraq demonstrates that the Iraqi population is now capable of waging the Iraq war without outside military aid, and pronounced the American mission there "a complete success."

Finally getting their due...

Moussaoui Eligible for Death Penalty

atleast they are making some progress at home..
Moussaoui Deliberations Enter Second Week

this has too stop it is such a huge trageduy...

Bomber Kills 17 in Iraqi Market

the war may become much more interesting

Major Alaskan Oil Field Could Remain Shut Down for Weeks, Months

Premarital sex is, is not wrong

Google Stillstand? Seit gut einer Woche taucht kein einziger Artikel, den wir schreiben, in den Index aufgenommen. Hat jemand ahnliche Erfahrungen? Normalerweise dauert das nur 1-2 Tage bis Google die Artikel im Index auffuhrt. Gehts es anderen auch so?

The change of our climate is, is not natural

I haven't gotten much done , but it's not important. Not much on my mind lately. Today was a total loss, but so it goes.

Midriff shirts should be, should not be banned at school - Or choose other arousing clothing parts for another persuasive speech topic

I haven't been up to much recently, but whatever. I just don't have much to say lately. Basically nothing happening to speak of. So it goes. My mind is like a complete blank. Such is life.

My mind is like an empty room. Nothing seems worth thinking about. More or less not much noteworthy happening worth mentioning, but it's not important. I guess it doesn't bother me. I've just been letting everything wash over me lately.

I've just been staying at home waiting for something to happen. I've just been letting everything wash over me. I can't be bothered with anything recently.

Easter, Christmas is the best holiday - Or choose your own favorite and create another persuasive speech topic

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