Saturday, November 25, 2006

Leaving Iraq

An Op-ed piece from today's Washington Post begins:
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans.

Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
The author, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, goes on to add:
The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We've already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq.

We are destroying our force structure, which took 30 years to build. We've been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years.

It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder -- one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead.

To squander this moment would be to squander future possibilities for the Middle East and the world. That is what is at stake over the next few months.
Senator Hagel, a Vietnam combat veteran, has consistently been willing to state publicly what many others in Washington will only say in private: Iraq has been a disaster for this country.

What Senator Hagel refers to as "leaving Iraq with honor" is really trying to find a way to allow the Bush administration to save face when it does come around to withdrawing from Iraq. It will be interesting to see if the coming withdrawal will be one of our choosing, or one events force on us as supply lines are cut off and our overstretched military has to fight its way out of that country (this is viewed as a real possibility by some military leaders who have been watching developments there).

Meanwhile, unless and until the President can find the moral and ethical strength he has yet to display at any point in his life (in the form of admitting a mistake), more American military service men and women will die for nothing more than his ego. This war of his choosing was a mistake that has turned into a military, foreign policy and moral debacle for our country.

Eventually, I'm sure, Charles Boustany will take a public position on the war, too. When that day comes, the position will be one guaranteed not to offend his Republican patrons. As of today, 64 Louisianians have died in this war. How many more will have to die before Charles Boustany finds the courage of his convictions?

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