Mission accomplished or not, it’s time after four years to call a halt. Only after the governments of the Coalition countries admit that military power has failed, and that nothing good will be achieved by persevering can we make a serious assessment of what can be salvaged from this disaster.
The most important thing that can be done now is to help the millions of refugees who have fled the awful combination of invasion, insurgency and civil war we have unleashed upon them (noted blogger Riverbend just announced that she and her family would be joining the exodus, long after Allawi, Pachachi and others held out in the past as hopes of the nation). But clearly nothing will be done as long as policy is ruled by the delusion that victory is just a surge away.
There are plenty of other obstacles. Many of the refugees are in Syria, and any suggestion of co-operation with Syria is anathema. Even more importantly, any serious proposal to do something about refugees would involve a massive increase in the intake by members of the coalition countries, and (as I’ve found from previous discussions of the topic) the chickenhawks who pushed this war are utterly terrified by the risks this would involve, given that many of these refugees have little reason to love us. Even suggestions that we are obligated to rescue those who risked their own lives working for the coalition are much too scary for these fighting keyboardists.
The first step is saying out loud as US Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has done, that this war is lost. This fact was obvious enough three years ago, but it’s taken this long for someone as senior as Reid to say it out loud. He copped a pasting from “Dean of the Washington Press Corps” David Broder for this, but whereas the Senate Dems might once have cowered in shock, all 50 of them wrote to the Washington Post to protest against Broder’s dishonest attack (hat-tip Glenn Greenwald.
In Australia, at least, there’s a fair chance of a change of government that would extract our troops from this mess. But (as we are routinely reminded in other contexts) we are too small for our actions to make much of a difference. In the UK, once Blair finally goes, his successor (presumably Gordon Brown) will inherit a political situation so dire that self-preservation will surely dictate an immediate review of policy on Iraq, followed by a rapid decision to declare victory and pull out. This would presumably have a significant impact on US public opinion, and on the feasibility of continued US escalation.
As regards the US, of course, there is no hope of Bush and the blogospheric wingnuts emerging from the parallel universe they’ve constructed so carefully. But surely there must be some in the press corps and the Beltway elite willing to dump High Broderism in the hope of emerging from the Bush era with some kind of credibility.