POLITICS
03/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

WaPo Editorial On Iraq 'Fantasies' Ignores Certain Realities

Today's Washington Post editorial, commemorating five years of Iraq miasma, levels the charge at Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that they have "promised the impossible" in promoting withdrawal from Iraq and have failed "to grapple with hard realities." This is not to say that Bush's effort is cheered - the "path" to victory urged by Bush is termed "elusive" - but the Post ignores a hard reality themselves.

Barely acknowledging the reduction in violence, the Democratic candidates insist that U.S. troops are, as Ms. Clinton put it, "babysitting a civil war." In fact, the surge forestalled an incipient civil war, and U.S. commanders and diplomats in Iraq don't hesitate to say that if American forces withdrew now, sectarian conflict would probably explode in its full fury, causing bloodshed on a far greater scale than ever before and posing grave threats to U.S. security.

And we're building, instead, the case for what exactly? If we can acknowledge that the full fury of sectarian conflict is inevitable, what's the virtue in expending our blood and treasure putting off the inevitability? The "Surge" that "forestalled" this "incipient civil war" will have to end at some point. At some point, we will have to take Iraq off life support to see if it will keep breathing. A steady drawdown will reveal whether this state is viable, and if it's not, it will at least spare our resources from having to manage the "steam control" of a boiler that's set to blow anyway.

The Post also whiffs, badly, in their assessment of Democratic proposals to manage any potential residual threat in the region, post-withdrawal:

With equal implausibility, the Democratic candidates say they would leave limited U.S. forces behind to prevent al-Qaeda from establishing bases. They assume that an Iraqi government that had just been abandoned by the United States would consent to the continued presence of American forces on its territory. In all, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama speak as if they have no understanding of Iraqi leaders, whom they propose to treat as willing puppets.

Again, this notion is founded on some specious logic. If the goal is to prevent al Qaeda from establishing bases, and we remain committed to not allowing other governing bodies to have a veto over our national security, what does it matter if the Iraqi government approves of our decision to eliminate terrorist bases? Why wouldn't they consent to their elimination? Why would our forces have to remain "on its territory?" It's a pity that the Post doesn't bring themselves to answer these questions. Were they to do so, they might come perilously close to making a lick of sense.

Ultimately, the whole premise of this editorial is built on a naive acceptance that "surge," having "has drastically reduced the level of violence in Iraq," represents the next stage in "Mission Accomplished." But the "Surge" is a classic example of mistaking activity for achievement. The violence lingers beneath the bandage of the "Surge," as yet unhealed and as the Post admits, unremitting. And the "Surge" has clearly provided not a whit of impetus for Iraqi leaders to assume responsibility. And why would they, when a status quo that our leaders believe is a major accomplishment can be bought on the U.S. taxpayer dime.

With editorials like this, it's no wonder that John McCain can endorse a hundred-year campaign in Iraq and not be thought a bloody fool. Meanwhile, our fighting men and women are left to grapple with the actual "hard realities" even as our treasure goes to pay for the fantasy. Ad infinitum.