Paul Greenberg

"I think this is going to take some time," our president warned last Saturday as he took off for a vacation on Martha's Vineyard, maybe because he felt he had to offer some explanation as Iraq collapsed along with his foreign policy in general. What was once Iraq is now divided, like ancient Gaul, into three parts -- Shi'a, Sunni and Kurdish -- all of which are themselves crumbling. So now Barack Obama tells us that it may take some time to put Iraq together again after it fell apart in record time once he withdrew American forces there in such haste. And according to a purely arbitrary timetable he considerately announced well in advance, lest the enemy be surprised.

The war this president claimed to have ended there three years ago is back -- if it ever went away. But to this president, history is one of the plastic arts. He can reshape it any time. And often does. Now he tells us it'll take a while to end the war there. You think? The way it always takes more time to rebuild something than to destroy it? The bloody consequences of his own decision to withdraw from Iraq prematurely continue to haunt him, which may be why he's still trying to rationalize it. Even as, little by little, he's being forced to reverse it.

After all the blood and treasure America sacrificed to hold Iraq together, this president and both his secretaries of state (Hillary Clinton and then John Kerry) have managed to squander the hard-won gains achieved there in no time at all. Now there's change you can really believe in.

Only now does this president tell us, oh, yes, and by the way, it's going to take some time to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. And only now is Hillary Clinton, having retired from her high post in this administration, confiding that she had doubts about this president's foreign policy all along. For only now is she preparing to run for the presidency herself, and realizing that she has some explaining to do.

What a show. It would be amusing if it weren't so tragic, for the numberless victims of this administration's blundering ways are all too real, their suffering all too palpable.

But don't fret. A few bombs dropped here and there should get the job done. Just how effectively was summed up by this lede on a front-page story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal: "WASHINGTON -- After four days of pounding targets in northern Iraq, U.S. officials warned Monday that the campaign was unlikely to inflict serious damage to the militant group now controlling large parts of Iraq and Syria."

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.