Iraq in a Nutshell
By Anonymous Liberal--Tuesday's New York Times has a long article which summarizes a year's worth of developments in the Iraq War, both on the ground in Iraq and behind the scenes in Washington. There's not a lot of new information there, but the article does a good job of charting the evolution (however slow and incomplete it has been) of the Bush administration's thinking on Iraq. If you don't have the time to read through it, though, I'd suggest skipping to the very last paragraph. It tells you all you need to know:
Mr. Bush still insists on talking about victory, even if his own advisers differ about how to define it. “It’s a word the American people understand,” he told members of the Iraq Study Group who came to see him at the White House in November, according to two commission members who attended. “And if I start to change it, it will look like I’m beginning to change my policy.”
Nevermind that a change in policy is exactly what the American people are looking for, by overwhelming margins. Bush knows that this is his war. He started it. He signed off on every key decision along the way. He knows that his historical legacy is on the line, and he cannot/will not bring himself to endorse anything less than "victory" in Iraq:
Mr. Bush came to worry that it was not just his critics and Democrats in Congress who were looking for what he dismissed last month as a strategy of “graceful exit.” Visiting the Pentagon a few weeks ago for a classified briefing on Iraq with his generals, Mr. Bush made it clear that he was not interested in any ideas that would simply allow American forces to stabilize the violence. Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine commandant, later told marines about the president’s message.
“What I want to hear from you is how we’re going to win,” he quoted the president as warning his commanders, “not how we’re going to leave.”
That's the reality. For two more years, we are stuck with a president who equates any exit strategy with defeat, a president who is "not interested in any ideas that would simply allow American forces to stabilize the violence." Bush is a man paralyzed by a need to salvage his own historical legacy, a man so personally invested in a failed policy that he cannot allow himself to see it for what it is, much less fix it.
It's time to stop proposing magical plans that Bush will never implement. It's time to stop coming up with ways of providing Bush "political cover" for leaving Iraq; he doesn't want it. It's time to start playing hardball. It's time to start holding hearings and exerting whatever leverage is available to put pressure on the White House. The only way significant change will occur is if Bush finds himself so politically isolated that those around him feel it necessary to stage some sort of intervention.