Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: My Brain Hurts a Lot

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Brain Hurts a Lot

Five years, and this is all we've got? It's the fifth anniversary of whatever it is we're doing in Iraq. What really is there to say about it at this point? Some of us might say that it's all a horrible mistake, but apparently that sentiment's not shared by the White House.

Dan Froomkin had a very nice summation of the whole thing today, so I'm just going to be lazy and quote him.

On the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, President Bush today attempted to recast it as a great success for the United States and a major blow to Osama bin Laden. But for the American people to go along with his construction will require a pretty severe case of amnesia.

The security situation in Iraq is undeniably somewhat better than it was a year ago, before Bush increased the number of American troops there to more than 160,000. But the violence nevertheless continues at an appalling level. And the political reconciliation the "surge" was intended to bring about remains a distant fantasy.

The supposed victory against bin Laden that Bush is celebrating is belied by the fact that al-Qaeda wasn't in Iraq before the invasion, that its Iraqi namesake is a mostly home-grown version with limited ties to bin Laden's organization, that the administration's own intelligence has concluded that the war has helped rather than hurt al-Qaeda -- and that bin Laden himself likely remains safely ensconced in Pakistan.

Looking at Iraq and seeing progress requires not looking back beyond the past 12 months or so. And even on that basis, it's hard to argue that the events of the past year have put us any closer to getting out. Furthermore, Bush's decision to arm anti-government Sunni militias may lead to even greater chaos when we do leave.

The only way the surge has been an unqualified success is one that Bush didn't mention today: It has bought him time.

Toward the end of 2006, after a Republican electoral rout and a devastating report from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, it looked like Congress might force Bush to get us out of the mess he got us into. But the surge changed that political calculus, and the war will now be passed on for the next president to resolve. On that count, there is indeed cause for Bush to kvell.

Speaking of the next president, let's choose one who thinks five years is enough rather than cheerleading for another 100.


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