Monday, May 07, 2007

GOP’s ‘Plan B’ Far Too Late

Extra! Extra! Extra!
Bill Prendergast is back in Minnesota after another unsuccessful search for Osama bin Laden. All isn't lost, however. He has the latest details on the war czar position.
By Christopher Truscott

The headline on the Washington Post Web site really jumps off the screen: “GOP Could Seek ‘Plan B’ on Iraq in September.”

If it was still 2003 or 2004 one could be thankful for the leadership, but today the Republican back-peddling is far too late. Wedded to a reckless policy of escalation, the president’s allies are trying to buy even more time before admitting they have been and remain absolutely wrong.

The time for “Plan B” in Iraq has long since passed. We’re now down to final options. It’s time for members of the Iraqi government to scrap their recess and take control of the country they were elected to lead.

The American military toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for democracy. It’s up to Iraqis to do the rest. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines can win any fight but they can’t instill in the Iraqi leadership the capacity to actually lead. That has to come from within.

While Republicans bristle at the notion of “artificial deadlines” and “handcuffs on our generals,” as if civilian control of American foreign and defense policy isn’t enshrined in the Constitution, the rest of us know we’ve been down this path before.

We’re sifting through sand in the Middle East today for the same reasons we slugged through the jungles of Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s: nobody could admit they were wrong and that old, dead-end policies needed to be tossed aside.

In 1965, as American involvement in Vietnam was on the rise, Arthur Schlesinger paraphrased comments made by President John F. Kennedy four years earlier:

“The war in Vietnam could be won only so long as it was their war. If it were ever converted into a white man’s war, we would lose as the French had lost a decade earlier.”

Though he ultimately played a role in moving us down the deadly path toward a full-scale shooting war in Southeast Asia, the thirty-fifth president’s first instincts were absolutely right. Americans couldn’t – and still can’t – effectively solve an internal conflict in a foreign land.

Just as Washington couldn’t will the South Vietnamese government to take effective measures to defend itself, today’s leaders can’t force Iraqis to end their own civil war.

No level of American troop surge, no amount of American cash and no number of American casualties can change the fact that only Iraqis can settle Iraq’s problems.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at It doesn’t bother him that GOP leadership doesn’t know basic American history, but at least they can try to read a newspaper from time to time.

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