White thinks Bush should do what many Bush critics have suggested: that is, Bush should put "huge pressure on the Iraqis" to change -- which means threatening to pull out U.S. troops if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fails to shape up his government.
There's a contradiction in that argument, especially because White also said that al-Maliki doesn't care if American troops leave. The phone connection was tenuous and the timber of White's voice was affected by multiple sclerosis. Most of all, he is troubled by "the hell" brought upon the majority of Iraqis -- "and we cannot just walk away from it."
White is skeptical that "the surge" of U.S. troops necessarily will help. Me, too. More troops can only make a difference if the military brass allows U.S. troops to hold areas they have cleared, a change Bush signaled last night. Also, Bush's proposed spending increases on Iraq reconstruction could give Iraqis a stake in this regime's success.
In September 2004, White began to ask every Iraqi he met, "Given how dangerous and anarchic Iraq is now, don't you wish the war had never happened?" While he had posed the question then to invite a "yes," no Iraqi gave that answer.
"Now they tell me it's worse than under Saddam," White told me. That doesn't mean it can't get worse. You can call the whole war a giant mistake and still appreciate why the United States needs to stick around.
If you think the world hated America for going into Iraq, imagine how the world will look at an America that flees an imploding nation. The world won't see an America -- as war opponents like to see themselves -- that is virtuous and realistic. They will see wholesale bloodshed, an ally that cannot be trusted and an army that doesn't know how to win.