Now that the Iraq Study Group's report has been out for a few days and everyone is getting their say, the only true consensus is among the neo-cons, who got us into this war, who are uniformly demanding that Bush ignore the ISG's recommendations and move on to "victory" in Iraq.
As the Decider-in-Chief himself would say, "fool me once, shame on . . . shame on--a fooled man can't get fooled again."
No, Mr. President, don't let the Neo-Cons fool you again. And don't be so intimidated by Vice President Cheney. Yes, Cheney and the other hard core hawks may call you a "wus" (use a more colorful term, no doubt), but don't fall for that old trick. A true wus is someone who gives in to the bullies.
Look carefully at what the neo-cons are saying. Do they offer a way out of Iraq via the route of "victory"? Not from what we've seen. It's easy for the Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, Weekly Standard editorial crowd--who, we'd bet, don't have a single son or daughter fighting for "freedom" in Iraq, and who'd eviscerate you for raising their taxes to pay for this disastrous war--to criticize the ISG report. Anyone can do that. But they're not offering any solutions, either.
Indeed, some of the neo-cons are either offering a revisionist history of why they got us into this war in the first place, or simply showing their true colors. Here's one we liked today, from Jed Babbin, an undersecretary of Defense in the Bush I admin, and a contributing editor to American Spectator, who has this gem, under a predictable headline of "Don't Give In To Defeat In Iraq": "We didn't go into Iraq to create democracy there, but to begin draining the terrorist swamp that extends from Cairo to Tehran, from Riyadh to Damascus."
Well, that's news to us. If that's true, then we're going to need a few more soldiers and a much better strategy. In any event, all we've accomplished so far is to flood the swamp with new terrorists and vastly complicate our real war on terrorism.
When it comes to offering a positive program for "victory" the closest we come is Sen. John McCain, who really isn't a neo-con, insisting that we send more troops. We think that's more political posturing than anything else: McCain knows that's not going to happen and he knows Iraq will get worse, whatever course we follow. This way, he can safely say, oh, in about another year as he's running for President, "hey, you should've followed my advice."
We will say this. If, Mr. President, you are going to reject the ISG recommendations and continue to insist on achieving "victory," then, at the very least, you SHOULD order in more troops. We oppose that, because we don't think more troops will do the trick. But, if you're serious, Mr. President, at least put your money where your mouth is. (And also help derail McCain's candidacy when all that happens is more needless U.S. troop deaths and more death and destruction in Iraq.)
If you do listen to the neo-cons, then, for god's sake, at least define what "victory" is so we'll have an objective to meet. And insist on a plan to achieve it. For example, if the goal is to achieve a multi-ethnic democracy in Iraq, then our military will have to confront and dismantle the Shi'ite militias, as well as the consequences of doing so.
And stop pretending there's no civil war. Today's Washington Post contains a small snapshot of the sectarian violence that couldn't be a clearer indication of a fairly traditional civil war. In "For Iraq's Sunnis, Conflict Closes In" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/10/AR2006121001021.html), reporter Sudarsan Raghavan, describes how Shi'ite militias have steadily encroached closer and closer to one mixed Sunni/Shi'ite neighborhood, expelling Sunni families, taking over their homes and killing many Sunni men.
This is classic civil war. An armed faction is steadily pushing forward into new territory, expelling its enemies and consolidating its gains. It may be difficult for Americans to see the front lines in this civil war, since to us all Iraqis look alike and no one's wearing uniforms (other than the police uniforms misappropriated by the Shi'ite militias), but to Iraqis the front lines are pretty clear as denoted by militia checkpoints, graffiti scrawled walls and steady encroachment by Shi'ites into western Baghdad.
We ought to get out now. And when we do, it will get really ugly. We shouldn't go too far, because we'll probably be back soon, but, we hope, with a real plan and a real objective.