Is There a “New Way Forward”?

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The Washington Post reports today that five advisers commissioned by Bush to help him find a “new way forward” (Note to GWB: love the marketing) in Iraq are both critical of the President’s old way of handling the Iraq war (main message: fire your National Security Team) as well as the Iraq Study Group’s recent recommendations. Think Progress has a good rundown on exactly what these military experts had to say. Four were critical of the ISG’s recommendations (mainly the idea of troop withdrawal) and three were in favor of or open to escalation (an increase in troops). Although I do agree that the ISG report left much to be desired, as Jonathan pointed out shortly after it was released (as have many others), an increase in troops isn’t the answer either.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday about the Army’s cash crunch. I know, no surprise to anyone, but the piece did, for me at least, solidify the point that even if the administration or a bipartisan panel or a slew of military experts thought adding 20,000 troops would suppress sectarian violence, train Iraqi security forces, and lead to a picturesque withdrawal down the road, we can’t afford it anyway. And furthermore, many experts say 20,000 wouldn’t do the trick, not even close.

Why are there no other options? Why are we left with Option 1: Stay, bleed the 2007 budget, send more troops that we don’t have, and potentially see no advancement; or Option 2: Leave (which seems unlikely at this point as Bush has made abundantly clear that victory in Iraq is still possible, at least in his mind), and risk civil war or even regional war? Are there no options because we have dug ourselves so far down, that, like Vietnam, we must admit failure, cut our losses, and retreat? If that really is the only feasible scenario, it is hard to admit, isn’t it? And maybe it is hard for those advising Bush to admit as well. Matt Iglesias over at the American Prospect points out that the ISG recommendations are useless for this very reason — the panel is in denial.

“What’s especially egregious about the ISG’s recommendations is that the commission clearly recognizes the nature of the problem, as evidenced by the opening section of its own report. It then fails to address its own analysis simply because the only reasonable conclusion to draw from it is the politically unacceptable one that we’ve lost and we need to leave.”

America’s next task may be swallowing the idea of defeat.

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