A War We Just Might Win…After Summer Vacation

I have empathy for the Iraqi people and I wish them well’¦but I’™m struggling to understand how many U.S. soldiers should give their lives so that the Bush administration can take another shot at convincing the American public that our government is bringing home the bacon’¦as opposed to feeding us another batch of baloney.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Michael O’™Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, write an upbeat assessment of the situation in Iraq in today’™s New York Times‘¦with an even more optimistic headline, ‘œA War We Just Might Win’. After eight days in the war torn country, they conclude that progress is being made, troop morale is high, and sectarian groups are beginning to cooperate in order to bring security.

At the same time, the Iraqi parliament announced today that it would begin a lengthy vacation despite the lack of progress on a number of critical issues that have remained stalled in the struggling government. The vacation is scheduled to end on September 4th’¦just days prior to the much anticipated U.S. assessment intended to evaluate the effectiveness of the recent troop surge.

Perhaps O’™Hanlon and Pollack failed to get the memo announcing the extended vacation’¦the same memo that suggests that even if the troop surge is able to bring improved security, the Iraqi government may well be incapable of stepping in and governing. Oh, and keep in mind that this is the same government that has refused to take control of numerous reconstruction projects that have been completed because they simply lack the ability and the expertise to do so.

From The New York Times:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’™s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘œvictory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Another surprise was how well the coalition’™s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

Well that settles it’¦I need to call my representatives in Washington and urge them to support the President in his determination to stay in Iraq as long as he deems necessary. Look, I have no doubt the added troops have made some marked improvements but we’™ve been here before and the problem remains the same’¦there are few reasons to believe that the Iraqi’™s are going to be able to govern once we reduce our presence.

Well over four years into the conflict and the Iraqi security forces appear no more able to maintain the security of Iraq than they were each prior time the Bush administration projected that they would be. Perhaps O’™Hanlon and Pollack received a personal assurance from the President?

From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’™s parliament went into summer recess for a month on Monday despite failing to enact a series of laws that Washington sees as crucial to stabilizing the country and reconciling warring Iraqis.

‘œWe do not have anything to discuss in the parliament, no laws or constitutional amendments, nothing from the government. Differences between the political factions have delayed the laws,’ Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told Reuters.

‘œBush cannot realistically go to Congress and say he has to keep U.S. troops there because the Iraqi government is doing a good job ‘” because the government is largely absent. It places him in a very difficult predicament,’ said Gareth Stansfield, an analyst at leading British think-tank Chatham House.

Washington has pressed the Iraqi government to speed up passage of laws that include measures to distribute Iraq’™s oil reserves and ease restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein’™s Baath party serving in the civil service.

It views such laws as key to reconciling disaffected members of Iraq’™s Sunni Arab community, once politically dominant under Saddam and now locked in a vicious sectarian conflict with majority Shi’™ites that has killed tens of thousands.

Is Reuters talking about the same country? Maybe I’™m dense, but what would make the impartial observer conclude that success is just over the horizon? It looks like Reuters stopped their analysis one ridge short of the magnificent Mesopotamian miracle’¦you know’¦that place behind the curtain where the wizard walked O’™Hanlon and Pollack through the tangible transformation that is taking place.

Frankly, if victory is proving that 160,000 American troops can have an impact on a nation in a virtual civil war’¦well’¦maybe we’™re ready for a ticker tape parade. On the other hand, isn’™t it possible that victory would best be equated with a certainty that, upon the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Iraq can thrive as a functional nation?

Even the rose colored glasses of O’™Hanlon and Pollack only warrant the following conclusion.

In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation ‘” or at least accommodation ‘” are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

Call me a cynic but the ongoing admonitions to ‘œgive it six more months’’¦the many assurances that ‘œwe’™re beginning to see progress’’¦and the optimistic assertions that ‘œthe Iraqi people are happily embracing democracy’ are all akin to lathering lipstick on a pig’¦you know, those animals that don’™t have lips’¦those cuddly creatures that no one’™s inclined to kiss even if they did.

I have empathy for the Iraqi people and I wish them well’¦but I’™m struggling to understand how many U.S. soldiers should give their lives so that the Bush administration can take another shot at convincing the American public that our government is bringing home the bacon’¦as opposed to feeding us another batch of baloney.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Monday, July 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

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