WE LOST! GET OVER IT!
Bravo to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for acknowledging the 800-lb gorilla in the room. At his meeting with President Bush on Thursday Sen. Reid told the President, “The war is lost.”
Democrats are right to take votes on the Iraq issue that they can win. That’s not the problem – losing a bunch of votes on perfect anti-war measures would only help sustain the war.
And the problem isn’t political, at least for now. Any discussion of Iraq works against the President and Republicans these days.
But they are letting the other side define the issue and there is always a price to pay for that.
Democrats continue to use language and raise issues that imply there is a legitimate chance to win the War in Iraq.
They talk, for example, of tying war funding to “benchmarks” for the Iraqi regime, as if the Maliki regime were not totally powerless without the ability or authority to impose anything on the feuding factions. They talk of “benchmarks” on the training of Iraqi troops and police as if this training did anything more than train these militia-supporters to fight their civil war.
“We Support the Troops”
They continue to use the President’s language, protesting they “support the troops”, as if that were at issue. Worse yet, Sen. Levin and others tie supporting the troops to a pledge that Democrats would “never cut off funding for the troops.” This legitimizes the White House claim that cutting off funding would actually undermine our soldiers.
I understand many Senators think they’re politically clever as all get out. They think that attacking the conduct of the war in the guise of fighting it better gives cover to their political asses. But before children start handling knives they should know which end to hold. Or they may end up cutting themselves. So what’s wrong with this approach?
Accepting the frame of how best to fight the war makes it impossible to talk about the real question:
HOW TO MINIMIZE THE DAMAGE FROM A WAR ALREADY LOST?
So long as Democrats talk about benchmarks and such they play right into the hands of Sen. McCain and others who refuse to acknowledge any possible outcome except victory.
It is possible to lose a war without suffering any consequences. [SeeVietnam: the only dominos to fall were Southeast Asian countries rushing to adopt capitalism.] But Iraq is not that kind of war.
Certain setbacks are inevitable:
• Iran will be stronger without Saddam Hussein to restrain their aggressiveness
• Iran will have greater access and control over southern Iraqi oil fields through their Shia brethren
• Enemies and friends will question our capabilities and will after seeing us lose yet another war
• The U.S. military will take years to recover from being “broken” (Rep. Murtha’s word) by the demands of Iraq and the Bush-Rumsfeld butchering of the Pentagon
But other damage can be contained if we openly recognize our defeat and gameplan for that reality instead of the fiction of a victory:
• The highest priority is to prevent the war in Iraq from spreading outside its borders. There is a very real threat of Sunni and Shia nations intervening in Iraq’s civil war and spreading that conflict throughout the region.
• The second priority is to stabilize Iraq itself. Forget democracy, a strong central government and other daydreams of our naivite. Those dreams are long gone if they were ever possible. We lack the material or moral resources to shape what Iraq will look like, but have at least a shot at preventing all-out civil war.
What it will take:
1) This requires, first of all, open recognition of the fact that the war is lost. Only that recognition would allow us to give priority to stabilizing the region and the country. This is impossible so long as we insist there is some way to win. Or even some way to “save face.” [Though how anyone thinks the goal of ‘saving face’ is worth the thousands more deaths is beyond me. But I digress….]
2) Stop all talk of “benchmarks” or training the Iraqis. That only encourages the McCains of the world. [Though benchmarks for rebuilding our military are another story entirely. That is worth pursuing.]
3) Put a sock in the mouth of the next Senator to say “We will never cut off funding.” Only an idiot disarms without getting anything for it. It’s like a union telling the company up front, “Oh, we’d never strike.” What do you think their contract would look like?
That’s not to say we should call for cutting off funding. There are thousands of ways to leave the door open without committing to it:
"We have no intention of cutting off funding. Our preference is to negotiate an end to the war with the President. But, if he refuses to negotiate and continues to send young men and women to their deaths without any benefit to America, he may leave us no choice."
4) Stability in Iraq and the region begins, in Sen. Jim Webb’s words, “from the outside in” -- in other words, by engaging all the major players in the region in a search for a settlement. Democrats should take the lead in demanding talks with Syria and Iran as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc.
The Speaker’s trip to Syria could have been a good beginning if the message hadn’t been so garbled. We needn’t be defensive. We should openly and continually attack the Administration for refusing to talk to Syria and Iran.
They’re our “enemies?” Well who the hell else do you negotiate with for peace except the people shooting at you? You don’t need a peace treaty with your friends. It’s like FDR saying during WWII, “I’ll negotiate peace with the Britain or Canada but I won’t talk to Germany or Japan.”
We’d still be fighting! (Or is that the point?)
So kudos for Sen. Reid. Like any addiction, admitting the problem is the first step to a cure.