Feature

Iraq

Time for plans B and C.

For all President Bush's talk of 'œstaying the course' in Iraq, said David Sanger in The New York Times, it appears that the course is about to be corrected. James Baker III, head of the bipartisan commission charged with assessing our policy in Iraq, said this week that it was time to explore options 'œbetween the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate, of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run.'' Since it's becoming clear that the Iraqi government is failing to restore order, Baker said, 'œwe're taking a look at other alternatives.' Baker is a longtime confidant of the Bush family whose commission has the president's blessing, so it's unlikely he'd make public statements 'œthat the president has not tacitly approved.' A member of Baker's commission said that Bush was 'œdesperate for a change' of strategy in Iraq. 'œThe big question,' the commission member said, 'œis whether we can come up with something before it's too late.'

Why not 'œtake some advice from the experts'”the Iraqis themselves'? said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. While American strategists hand-wring in their air-conditioned think tanks, Iraqis themselves have made it 'œcrystal clear' that they want us to 'œwithdraw our troops within one year.' In a poll conducted in Iraq by the University of Maryland, 78 percent of Iraqis say the presence of U.S. troops is 'œprovoking more conflict than it is preventing.' In another startling finding, 61 percent of Iraqis now favor violent attacks on American troops. It's true that giving a timetable for withdrawal might encourage the insurgents to wait us out, but the grim reality is that 'œall our options are bad.'

Not so, said 1st Lt. Pete Hegseth in The Wall Street Journal. Having served a year in Iraq myself I can tell you that this war is still winnable'”if we want it. Those polls reflect frustration not with the troops themselves but with our inability to keep order. In those areas that we have managed to stabilize, Americans 'œare tolerated, even welcomed.' The problem is that we sent in just enough troops to topple Saddam and provoke an insurgency, but not enough to restore order. For the sake of Iraq, the region, and our own global reputation, we need more troops in Iraq, 'œand we need them now.' They'd already be there if it weren't for Donald Rumsfeld, said Elizabeth Sullivan in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He insisted that only 140,000 troops were needed to pacify the country, and has stubbornly refused to consider that he was wrong. 'œRumsfeld must go,' and his successor should 'œrevisit every single assumption about Iraq.'

Ralph Peters

New York Post

Fareed Zakaria

Newsweek

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