Friday, September 14, 2007

The Bush Iraq Policy is the Only Cautious and Responsible Course, For Now.

In last night’s Presidential address on Iraq, I think the President proposed the right course of action and established a correct and cautious policy. He promised a reduction to pre-surge troop levels by next summer and promised further reductions as the situation improves.

It appears he has turned a corner. No more bravado about “staying the course” and “leaving when the job is done”. He appears to be listening to General Petreaus and accepting reality.

I watched hours of the General Petraeus congressional hearings. I was impressed by his honest, sober, realistic, and clear reports. He was guardedly optimistic but did not sugar coat things. He impressed me as someone who will not “spin” the facts but will tell the truth and give an honest assessment no matter where it leads.

While many Democrats are going to oppose Bush and try to push for an immediate pullout, it looks like Bush will prevail. As Pat Buchanan said in a recent article, "Bush is winning today because he has jettisoned the jabber about global democracy, and argues that a U.S. withdrawal risks a strategic disaster, national humiliation, massacre of our friends, and triumph for Al-Qaeda."

It seems obvious to all but the most extreme anti-Bush war critics that the surge produced positive results. The surge achieved a reduction in violence and a weakening of Al Qaeda. Not only is General Petraeus reporting this but so also are many independent observers including scholars from the liberal Brookings Institute.

The military successes however, are not achieving the objective the surge was supposed to achieve. The surge was supposed to give the Iraqi politicians breathing room in which they could achieve political reconciliation and make progress on building a nation. Of the eighteen benchmarks established to measure Iraqi progress, the Iraqis achieved only one. Iraq seems to have a lot of petty politician who lust after power but few statesmen. General Petraeus has said we cannot win a military victory without a political settlement.

We can’t defeat the enemy militarily, because the when we talk about fighting “the enemy” in Iraq the terminology does not fit the reality. The enemy is not a single military force or ideology or movement, but numerous factions vying for power. In the South of Iraq alone there are three separate Shiite factions fighting each other for control of the region. We may be able to keep events from spinning out of control but we cannot forever police the country. If the Iraqis do not want a nation, it will be hard to impose it.

I am disgusted about the lies and deceit that put us in Iraq, but we must now deal with the reality we are facing. How we got in Iraq is now less important than how we get out. As reckless as it was to go into Iraq, and as badly as the post invasion administration of Iraq was handled, to just pull out now would be more reckless than the initiation of this war in the first place.

Unfortunately, we broke it; we own it. We must figure a way out of Iraq that does not lead to a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, a Kurdish-Turkish war, genocide, ethnic cleansing and a destabilization of the entire Mid East.

If by March, when the next report is to be made to congress, if the situation is not better then than it is now, it may be time to move toward a partitioning of the country as advocated by Joe Biden or another alternative strategy. Just leaving is not a strategy. For now, I think the Bush policy is the best course of action and the only cautious and responsible thing to do.

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