Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The withdrawal perspective

Dana Milbank's column today, The Wagging of the 'Civil' Tongues, citing a former Clinton official on the no-win Iraq situation :
"Two hours later, former ambassador Peter Galbraith presented a rather different view to the Middle East Institute in Dupont Circle. 'There is a civil war, and it is a lot like Lebanon in the '70s and '80s,' he declared. 'The United States basically has a choice: Either we use our forces to stop the civil war, or we withdraw.'"
"You have a government that isn't a government, a nation that isn't a nation," said Galbraith, Clinton administration ambassador to Croatia. His answer: withdrawal.

"If we do what I recommend, there will be horrific sectarian cleansing in the mixed areas, particularly in Baghdad, and civil war," he said. "If we stay the course, there will be horrific sectarian cleansing in Baghdad, and civil war."
This latter point, on the effects of staying the course, is what Bush doesn't get and what the reporters at his press conference queried him on, asking whether a change in strategy was in order. For him, it's either stay the course or withdraw, no in-betweens apparently, if you take him at his word yesterday:
ABC News's Martha Raddatz was not satisfied. "The violence has gotten worse in certain areas," she reminded him. "Is it not time for a new strategy?"

Bush acted as if Raddatz were Cindy Sheehan. "We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president," he vowed. "That would be a huge mistake. It would send an unbelievably terrible signal to reformers across the region. It would say we've abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror. It would give the terrorists a safe haven from which to launch attacks. It would embolden Iran. It would embolden extremists."

"Sir," Raddatz pointed out, "that's not really the question."

Bush shook his head in disbelief. "Sounded like the question to me," he said.