In Iraq, the level of sacrifice exceeds the likely level of achievement
America's goal for Iraq, as articulated in 2003, was to help create "a peaceful, united, stable, secure Iraq, well-integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the Global War on Terrorism."This follows Tom Friedman and David Broder, both war supporters, coming to the same conclusion last week. And the Oregonian has some harsh words for those who are using Iraq as a political football.
Despite a scattering of hopeful milestones along the way -- the capture of Saddam Hussein, the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the election of a central government, a growing number of trained and equipped Iraqi security forces -- the goal of a peaceful, secure Iraq seems more distant than ever.
Iraqis are killing each other at the rate of about 3,000 a month, and American servicepersons continue to die at a rate of between one and two a day. Even the Voice of America reports this week that "violence in Iraq is at its highest level since the U.S. invasion in 2003."
By and large, the military plan for the post-Saddam era hasn't worked. In many parts of the country, including the capital, the average Iraqi family lives in fear. Others have fled.
It's not this country's job to pour more American blood into the dust in the hope that things get better someday. It's time, instead, to prepare for the day when America leaves Iraq.
The U.S. government must make it clear that it doesn't intend to remain long in a situation in which its people are killed to bring peace to a country that doesn't seem to want it. It's not a sign of weakness to acknowledge that things have gone badly and the likelihood of a desirable outcome has diminished. Such an acknowledgement may have the helpful effect of focusing the energies of Iraq's fractious government, which appears helpless without U.S. military and economic support.
It's also time to prepare the neighborhood, including Iran and Syria, and other interested parties, from Paris to New Delhi, for the day the United States stops fighting. It's important that the world confront the consequences of a post-American state in Iraq. While it's hard to imagine the international discussions that would ensue would be constructive, the United Nations' experience this month in Lebanon offers a little hope.
Many in this country filter their views of Iraq through lenses of electoral politics, but that is simply immoral. The lives of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians are more important than midterm results in Washington. Nobody should be willing to let the violence continue because it may yield political benefits.
America owes its military families the best answer it can give to the question, "Why do we fight?" It also owes the people of Iraq a path out of chaos, but sadly, it's not clear that one exists. At the very least, it's time to call the question.