By: E&P Staff
The Washington Post, an unabashed cheerleader for the Iraq war from the outset, asked President Bush on Sunday to “Change Course in Iraq,” as the headline put it. But closer examination shows that this is not as dovish a sentiment as one might assume.
The Post did not urge any kind of timetable for withdrawal or other dramatic step. Instead it said it agreed with the president that it was time to “change tactics” and get ready for a “protracted conflict.” It did say that the “rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq needs to be addressed urgently.”
“A revised U.S. strategy must aim to jump-start political accord and militia disarmament,” it stated. “But it must also provide for the possibility that decisive progress will not be achievable soon. It should position the United States to defend its interests during a protracted conflict, with levels of troops and other resources that will be sustainable. It should reach out to Iraq’s neighbors and other governments with an interest in stabilizing the country. This calls for diplomacy far more deft and aggressive than the administration thus far has engaged in” — perhaps
“a peace conference attended by all the Iraqi parties, as well as Iraq’s neighbors, the United Nations and other powers, such as the European Union and the Arab League.”
But if, “as appears more likely, Iraq’s civil war deepens and spreads, the United States should abandon attempts to pacify Baghdad or other areas with its own forces. It should adopt a strategy of supporting the Iraqi government and army in a long-term effort to win the war. The elements of such a strategy might include substantially upgrading the training, advising and support missions — which have been woefully undersupported so far. U.S. airpower could back Iraqi troops, and U.S. money and equipment could flow to the Iraqi army, conditioned on government steps to demobilize Shiite militias and respect the constitution. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Iraqi governments should formally agree on a plan for turning the fighting over to Iraqi troops, province by province; Mr. Maliki himself has said he wants that transition to occur by the end of next year. A reserve force of U.S. troops could remain as a guarantor against a military victory by insurgents and as a rapid reaction force that could strike al-Qaeda targets.
“A change of course won’t necessarily rescue the U.S mission in Iraq. The government, political system and army that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much to create could collapse without the prop of 140,000 U.S. troops or even with it. But there remains a chance the government could gain control over the country. As long as that prospect exists, the United States has a moral obligation and a practical interest to remain in Iraq.”
The full editorial can be found at www.washingtonpost.com.