Both houses of Congress have now gone on record opposing Bush's dispatch of 21,500 more troops to Iraq. Yet neither house is willing to end U.S. involvement by cutting off funding for the war.
Transparently, this is not a strategy for victory. It is a hold-the-line, stay-the-course strategy until America concludes that the price in blood and treasure of averting defeat is too high, and demands that U.S. troops be brought home, no matter the consequences.
Absent a deus ex machina, we are on the road to defeat. The timing alone remains in doubt.
Colin Powell says we are losing the war. President Bush says we are not winning. If more troops are ruled out, stalemate seems the best outcome. Or do we think that when we depart, Nouri al-Maliki will succeed where Vietnam's President Thieu failed?
Bush is determined no defeat will happen on his watch. And he has the power to prevent Congress from forcing a withdrawal. He can ignore non-binding resolutions. He can veto laws that restrict or cut off funds for the war or the troops. A third of one house will surely sustain a Bush veto, until 2009.
Democrats, realizing what happened to their party when they tied Nixon's hands and cut off Saigon, and South Vietnam was overrun and Cambodia fell to the genocidal rule of Pol Pot, want to end U.S. involvement but not be held responsible for what follows. For what will surely follow is a crushing defeat for U.S. policy in the Middle East, a humanitarian disaster, and a wider, bloodier war.
Anyone believe Baghdad will be a happier and safer place when we are gone?
Paradoxically, while the U.S. invasion and smashing of the Iraqi regime, army, state and ruling party caused the war of succession, a U.S. withdrawal will be the starter pistol shot for the war to begin in earnest with all the contending parties in the region plunging in.
By dynamiting the Golden Temple at Samarra, the terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi ignited the Sunni-Shia war. But it was we well-intentioned Americans who ignited the Hobbesian war of all against all, by destroying all the old power centers in Iraq, without knowing how to build enduring and democratic new ones.
Yet if Bush-Cheney are unwilling to withdraw, and Democrats and a growing number of Republicans are unwilling to invest any more blood and treasure to achieve victory, what is the likely future -- for us at home?
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