I like the New York Times' Tom Friedman. He's a smart guy, he writes extremely well, and his heart's almost always in the right place. But I think his column from yesterday, "Let's Talk About Iraq," indicates that like much of the rest of America, he's clinging to false hopes about Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"This is no time to give up," he writes. "[This war] is still winnable--but it is time to ask: What is our strategy?
It's time to get real. This war is only "winnable" if we rewrite our definition of "win." And the time to ask what our strategy is was a long time ago, back when everybody but the administration realized a serious insurgency was getting underway.
Friedman calls for a "bold mobilizing strategy right now" to fix our problems in Iraq, but the sad reality is that the window for "victory" has closed. So many things are broken in this war that nothing short of a time machine could fix them all.
It's too late to go back and erase Donald Rumsfeld's "disastrous mistake" of not putting enough troops into Iraq at the outset, and of not taking the insurgency seriously until it was in full roar. And it's too late to fix the the disastrous mistakes that led up to the war, and to fix the others that sprang from it.
We can't go back to 1998 and squelch the Project for a New American Century's conspiracy to take Saddam Hussein from power by military force. We can't un-cook the intelligence on Iraq, or stop Rumsfeld from going to war with his "transformational" vision of a light force. There's no stopping Alberto Sanchez's legal machinations that led to the rule of law and human rights fiascos in Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, and Gitmo. It's too late to prevent the civil war in Iraq, or the "free elections" in the Middle East that have turned terrorist groups like Hezbollah into legitimate political parties.
Iraq is not, as Friedman suggests, "drifting toward a dangerous tipping point." It's way past the tipping point, and it's hurtling downhill in a handbag. America's military might has proven to be an inferior tool of foreign policy; its political and military leaders have been exposed as sinister, dishonest, and hypocritical.
Some call this kind of talk self defeating--what Congressman J.D. "Party Puppet" Hayworth described on this morning's Imus show as a "Cronkite covenant of craven capitulation." I call it "facing the facts." No "mobilizing strategy" will accomplish anything if it includes sticking our heads in the sand.
The best we can reasonably hope for now is that things in Iraq won't turn out too badly. America's real challenge will be to devise a strategy to restore its prestige and credibility, and put it back on track toward becoming a "shining city on the hill."