The debate over Iraq is often reduced to bumper-sticker simplicities. But in a press conference last week, President Bush laid out a course of action too subtle for a stump speech. It may be the one course that has some chance to succeed.
"A military solution alone will not stop the violence," Bush said.
So, what can? Politics. Not U.S. partisan politics, but politics among Iraqis, and among Iraq's Arab neighbors who desperately want stability re-established in Baghdad before instability spreads to their own countries.
Carl von Clausewitz famously argued that war is the continuation of politics by other means. Even insurgencies and terrorists use force not as an end in itself but as a tool to achieve political ends.
There is an element among our enemies in Iraq -- the al-Qaida terrorists -- who can never be accommodated politically because they see themselves in a global ideological struggle with the United States. We cannot negotiate with them.
But the core of the U.S. struggle in Iraq is not with al-Qaida, it is with indigenous Sunni forces with indigenous political aims.
The Defense Department's August report, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," describes these "Rejectionists." "Some elements are indicating an interest in Prime Minister al-Maliki's new reconciliation effort, while still employing violence against the Coalition forces and the ISF from a sense of honor and as a means to force meaningful political accommodation," DOD reported. "Moderates say they will accept reconciliation inducements and disarm only after (Shia) death squads are eliminated; Shia militias are disarmed; and key security, amnesty and political demands are met. Other hard-line elements of Rejectionist groups provide professional military skills to al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremists to achieve common tactical objectives. Other Rejectionists, including some in Anbar and Baghdad, are weary of al-Qaida in Iraq's violent intimidation tactics and actively oppose al-Qaida in Iraq, sometimes mounting their own anti-al-Qaida in Iraq attacks and raids."