Failure is not an option in Iraq. Thankfully, it also has begun to dawn on most everyone that the only way to avoid failure is to turn Iraq over to Iraqis as soon as possible. The Wall Street Journal put it best last week: "Above all, Iraqis themselves will have to begin taking responsibility for keeping the power on and maintaining order - in short, for governing themselves." President Bush, in his address to the nation on Sunday, confirmed that one of our top priorities is "the orderly transfer of sovereignty and authority to the Iraqi people."
The WSJ also - correctly, in my opinion - dashed cold water all over the notion of pouring more American troops into Iraq, likening any such idea to the "Westmoreland strategy" in Vietnam. The Journal editorial writer opined: "A million Marines" (to which I would add a million blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers) "won't be enough if the Iraqi people aren't on our side." I believe the only way to get the Iraqi people "on our side" is to give them back their country and ensure them the resources they need to rebuild the infrastructure and reform their economy and begin the process of democratization. That's why I was heartened to hear the president emphasize in his speech that "the current number of American troops is appropriate to their mission."
The dilemma is, we can't simply withdraw our troops and turn Iraq over to the Iraqis without creating a fatal power vacuum. The military admits that planning for postwar reconstruction was inadequate. Moreover, we have been so busy fighting an unanticipated guerrilla war that not only have we been unable to get the electricity on and the oil flowing, we haven't created the rudimentary institutions (military, economic and governmental) that would make possible an immediate transfer of authority to the Iraqis. We now must do whatever it takes to accomplish this transfer of authority quickly. Yes, the cost will be great, but the cost of failure would be even greater.