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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wake me when F.U. ends

Think Progress summarizes today's National Intelligence Estimate concerning Iraq.
Today, the Bush administration released an update to the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), entitled, “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: Some Security Progress but Political Reconciliation Elusive.” The NIE — which offers the coordinated judgments of the Intelligence Community — observed some “measurable but uneven improvements” in Iraq’s security situation, but cautioned that there remains a lack of political progress in Iraq and a failure of the escalation to successfully provide sufficient security for Iraqis.
I'm not certain that the NIE will impact the domestic debate over Iraq much. Somehow, George Bush can make completely absurd comparisons between Iraq and the Vietnam War and get away with it politically. We pay a heavy price in this country for having a population that doesn't seem to know or care much about historical facts. The utterly false mythology the right has built up over the years about that war is breathtaking in its stupidity and ignorance.

Arguing about whether the surge in Iraq is working is pointless. Our military is pretty darn good at what it does, and the men and women doing the work are to be respected. But it's hard not to see that the problems in Iraq are like squeezing a balloon -- you may get a handle in one spot, but something else just pops out somewhere else.

The true lesson of the Vietnam conflict is that nation building imposed from the outside won't work. The amount of hubris required to maintain that it will is staggering. But I'm sure many ordinary Iraqis will appreciate all the air conditioned bases serving pork sandwiches, not to mention the new embassy that is actually bigger than Kuwait. (I'm not saying that the new U.S. embassy in Iraq is bigger than the one in Kuwait, it's actually bigger than the country of Kuwait. You can look it up, really.)

Strikingly missing in the debate over what this congressman or that senator thinks is one simple idea: maybe our presence in Iraq is a key part of the problem. It's more complicated than that, of course, but it's a discussion we need to have.

While we all hope that conditions in Iraq can be improved for ordinary Iraqis, the idea that solutions will flow from the insane beast known as U.S. politics is ludicrous. Look what is happening: the occupant of the White House is "learning lessons" from a war he avoided, the right wing noise machine has suddenly discovered a relatively obscure Congressman from SW Washington because he provided them with easy talking points, presidential candidates in both parties make this or that declaration to satisfy their constituencies, and meanwhile the quagmire just gets deeper and deeper.

This is nuts. I think it's safe to say the Iraqis really can't take too much more of this kind of help.

And as I've written before, the key decision we have to make is that we are going to leave Iraq, somehow, someday. The smart folks at the Pentagon and State Department can determine how best to do it, and when, and in what fashion, and how many troops to keep deployed in the region. But we've had no realistic strategy from day one Iraq, and we still don't, just an endless series of reports and false deadlines always leading to more Friedman Units. (F.U.'s.)

September was never a meaningful assessment deadline any more than all the others. The American people are being given a choice between endless F.U.'s and endless F.U.'s.

Things will look up in the spring, though.

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