Thursday, August 23, 2007

The if-onlys

Get ready to hear from the if-onlys. We're going to hear a lot from them, for a long time. The if-only's are the ones who are going to say "if only we'd stayed in Iraq longer," "if only we hadn't drawn down our troops," "if only we'd been more patient."

They will be Repubs of course. And Joe Lieberman.

They are building the case for this already. Yesterday, the President addressed the VFW and compared Iraq to Vietnam. That is a little bit like the Prime Minister of France in 1940 recalling the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, but Bush's real point was to lay the groundwork for the "who lost Iraq" argument that the Repubs will use to cover their tracks.

Let's be honest: American participation in the Iraq (civil) war is ending. The only question is how soon, and with what human and material cost. Surge, splurge, there's no doubt that we are going to be "drawing down" our troop strength, if only because DOD admits that after April there won't be enough troops to sustain it.

And there's no doubt that the Iraq we leave behind will be neither stable nor democratic. That "success" we're having in al Anbar province is not the birth of a multi-sectarian Iraq; its the Sunnis girding themselves for the war with the Shia after we leave their country.

When the if-onlys make their argument, it's important to remember that the Iraq misadventure was a fiasco in conception as well as execution. It was the wrong war at the wrong time against the wrong foe. Even if it had been well-handled, it would have been a distraction from the struggle against our real enemies--people like bin Laden--and a strategic mistake. With that kind of a start, it was never going to go well. The fact that it has become a total disaster is almost secondary--although we need to remember that as well, so that we make sure to point out to the if-onlys that their monumental incompetence should disqualify them from any role in carrying out American policy in the future.

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