Tuesday, October 24, 2006
A New York Times editorial today takes on the sticky issue of what the Bush administration should do to start cleaning up the horrendous mess it's made in Iraq:
No matter what President Bush says, the question is not whether America can win in Iraq. The only question is whether the United States can extricate itself without leaving behind an unending civil war that will spread more chaos and suffering throughout the Middle East, while spawning terrorism across the globe.
The prospect of what happens after an American pullout haunts the debate on Iraq. The administration, for all its hints about new strategies and timetables, is obviously hoping to slog along for two more years and dump the problem on Mr. Bush's successor. This fall's election debates have educated very few voters because neither side is prepared to be honest about the terrible consequences of military withdrawal and the very long odds against success if American troops remain. [...]
For all the talk of timetables for Iraq, there has been little discussion of the timetable that must be handed to George W. Bush. The president cannot leave office with American troops still dying in an Iraq that staggers along just short of civil war, on behalf of no concrete objective other than "get the job done," which is now Mr. Bush's rhetorical substitute for "stay the course." The administration's current vague talk about behind-the-scenes agreements with Iraqi politicians is next to meaningless. Americans, Iraqis and the rest of the world need clear, public signs of progress.
Mr. Bush can make the first one by firing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There is no chance of switching strategy as long as he is in control of the Pentagon. The administration's plans have gone woefully wrong, and while the president is unlikely to admit that, he can send a message by removing Mr. Rumsfeld. It would also be a signal to the military commanders in the field that the administration now wants to hear the truth about what they need, what can be salvaged out of this mess, and what cannot.
Speaking of Bush's Iraq mess, I woke up to a great piece about the narrative that good books about the Iraqi war lay out—and it's simply chilling. Listen to the piece and read about the books here.
This is about the book Cobra II, which lays out the horrifying job that Rumsfeld did: Donald Rumsfeld so intimidated everyone around him, chewed out four-star generals in public, humiliated his civilians aides, told [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice that she wasn't in the chain of command. By the time we went to war with Iraq, there was a cowed, compliant defense establishment that, whatever its innermost misgivings, was ready to go [into] battle with him simply because he had broken their will to object or to criticize. In Fiasco, it becomes a more crucial theme after the invasion. An excerpt from the book is available at that NPR link.