Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The tragedy of a war without end

The New York Times scores a home run with this unsigned lead editorial. Its title, "Still No Exit" says it all about the never-ending Iraq war

It is short, so here is the whole thing:
President Bush is nothing if not consistent. In a speech on Tuesday, he made it clear that he has no plan at all for ending the war in Iraq and no serious plan for winning the war in Afghanistan.

Mr. Bush wants to have it both ways — claiming success in tamping down violence in Iraq and yet refusing to make the hard choices that would flow from that.

Speaking at the National Defense University, he said he would withdraw only 8,000 more troops from Iraq by the time he leaves office. That would leave 138,000 troops behind — more than were deployed in Iraq before his January 2007 “surge.”

All of this seems to be driven more by what is happening in American battleground states than any battleground in Iraq.

While Mr. Bush and his party’s nominee, John McCain, both want to stay the course until some undefined “victory” is achieved, American voters have run out of patience. Mr. Bush and his advisers are clearly hoping that this token withdrawal will be enough to keep Iraq out of the news and out of the election debate. (Ironically, Mr. McCain who doesn’t want to withdraw any troops at all, had no choice but to declare his support for the president’s plan.)

Iraq’s leaders have also run out of patience, and they are pushing to have American troops out by 2011. That means the next president — whether it is Mr. McCain or Barack Obama — will have to quickly come up with a plan for a safe and responsible exit.

Like Mr. Bush, Iraq’s leaders want to have it both ways. They want to talk about an American withdrawal, but they are still refusing to make the tough political compromises that are their only hope for keeping things under control once the Americans are gone.

All of these months later, and Iraq’s Parliament has still not adopted an oil revenue-sharing law or a law establishing the rules for provincial elections.

So long as an American president refuses to start seriously planning for a withdrawal, Iraq’s leader will continue on this way.

Mr. Bush was right on one point Tuesday when he said that “Afghanistan’s success is critical to the security of America.”

What he didn’t say is that Washington is in real danger of losing the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda — the war Mr. Bush shortchanged again and again for his misadventure in Iraq.

American commanders in Afghanistan need a lot more help than the 4,500 additional troops Mr. Bush has now pledged to send there.

Mr. Obama has offered a sensible blueprint for quickly drawing down American troops in Iraq and bolstering the fight in Afghanistan. After a befuddling silence, Mr. McCain on Tuesday finally agreed that more troops are needed in Afghanistan. What Mr. McCain has yet to explain is where those troops will come from.

Mr. Bush’s disastrous war in Iraq has so overtaxed American forces that the math is painfully simple: Until there is a real drawdown from Iraq, there will not be enough troops to win in Afghanistan.

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