Exit from Iraq

Robert Novak writes:

Whether Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military will tell the election winner there are insufficient U.S. forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three realistic options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to reinforce Iraq, stay with the present strength to continue the war, or get out.

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush’s decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal….

This messy new Iraq is viewed by Bush officials as vastly preferable to Saddam’s police state, threatening its neighbors and the West. In private, some officials believe the mistake was not in toppling Saddam but in staying there for nation building after the dictator was deposed.

I’m glad some officials are starting to believe that. I could have told them that from the start. If you don’t have a game plan for victory, you will not win. If you can’t even bring yourself to identify the enemy, you will not win. If your objective is not possible, you will not win.

The wild card, however, is Iran. Ledeen and other neocons are still pushing for correcting the conflict by expanding it, which would be an amazingly stupid thing to do. If their nuke program is a problem, then take it out or wait and let Israel take it out*, but whatever you do, don’t try to expand a doomed nation-building program. Nations cannot be built! The very concept is a contradiction in terms. Germany was a nation prior to WWII. So was Japan. Iraq is something more akin to a peripheral state in the House of Islam and a tripartite one at that, without a dictator to hold it together by horrific force, it is no more a nation than the former Yugoslavia.

Perhaps now we can return to the immigration issue and other matters that might actually help the America meet the challenge of resurgent Islam without committing the usual suicide through security.

*Some very inobservant people say that we cannot permit this, because then the Arabs will hate the Israelis infinity plus one, or perhaps even double-dog infinity. Personally, I suspect the administration’s apparent lack of concern about the Iranian program is because they already know that Israel is planning to take it out before it goes online.