Staying the Course: Damned If We Do, Damned If We Don’t

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As the Los Angeles Times reports this morning, the “stay the course” chorus in the administration is about to be smacked down by the commission headed by James Baker tasked with exploring options in Iraq. But is it too late to change course in Iraq, or more precisely, is it too late to change course in a manner that would ensure the ever-distant seeming victory that Bush constantly promises? In this morning’s TomDispatch, Michael Schwartz examines this question, and concludes that no amount of tinkering with our military strategy will fix the mess we’ve made there. Though the military will undoubtedly try several more strategic shifts in the months ahead, as Schwartz observes, some military insiders have already realized the terrible, irreversible downward spiral we—and Iraq—are stuck in. Gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops—an option the Baker panel is reportedly considering—is not exactly a panacea, either. An excerpt:

There may have been a time, back when the invasion began, that the U.S. could have adopted a strategy that would have made it welcome — for a time, anyway — in Iraq. Such a strategy, as the military theorists flatly state, would have had to deliver a “vibrant economy, political participation, and restored hope.” Instead, the occupation delivered economic stagnation or degradation, a powerless government, and the promise of endless violence. Given this reality, no new military strategy — however humane, canny, or well designed — could reverse the occupation’s terminal unpopularity. Only a U.S. departure might do that.

Paradoxically, the policies these military strategists are now trying to reform have ensured that, however much most Iraqis may want such a departure, it would be, at best, bittersweet. The legacy of sectarian violence and the near-irreversible destruction wrought by the American presence make it unlikely that they would have the time or inclination to take much satisfaction in the end of the American occupation.

Read the full article here.

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