International Herald Tribune Editorial - Ranting at reality on Iraq
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: April 26, 2007
If President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney believe the belligerently partisan and misleading things they have been saying about Congress' war spending bill, their grip on the few options left in this disastrous war is even more tenuous than we had guessed.
The sooner Bush and his allies drop the pretense that military victory is still possible in Iraq and their charges of "defeatism" against those who know better, the closer the United States will be to rescuing what can still be rescued from the debacle.
Obviously, the White House and Congress will eventually have to arrive at some kind of compromise. But that compromise cannot be on the "my way or the highway" terms Bush is demanding. The fact is, Congress has served the country well by finally forcing open debate about how America can best extricate itself from Iraq while minimizing the long-term damage to itself and the Iraqi people.
The "dramatically different" military strategy Bush now claims to be carrying out in response to the frustrations voters expressed in last November's election is nothing fundamentally new at all. It is just an escalated version of the failed approach - 99 parts military - that the administration has clung to for the past four years.
It is actually Congress that is proposing a different and healthier approach by insisting on a serious political strategy, one that requires a genuine turn from the deliberately divisive policies of the radical-Shiite-led Iraqi government, policies that have been fueling civil war.
The war spending measure that the White House is now so frantically demonizing requires Bush to demand that the Iraqi government finally demonstrate measurable progress toward more conciliatory policies on oil, policing and employment discrimination.
Without such policy changes, American troops cannot hope to hold Iraq together, no matter how many thousands more are sent and how long they are ordered to remain. To give added force to American calls for political conciliation, the legislation links a specific timetable for the phased withdrawal of American combat troops to political progress.
If Bush has problems with the withdrawal dates Congress proposes, those can be negotiated. But if he refuses to insist on policy changes from Baghdad and acts as if American troops can stay in Iraq indefinitely, he throws away all leverage. That invites the worst kind of endgame: more chaos inside Iraq and, we fear, more chaos for the region when American troops leave, as they inevitably will.