Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pundits and Pony Plans

There are times I am puzzled about the fact that a dirty fucking hippie like me has a greater understand of how the world works than Wise Old Men like David Ignatius. Consider:

The Democrats' problem is that they seem determined to join the Bush administration in doubling down bad bets on Iraq. In the Democrats' case, the mistaken gamble is that by imposing a Washington timetable for troop withdrawal, America will compel good behavior from the fratricidal Iraqis. That idea is naive. But then, so is the Bush administration's politically divisive strategy for an open-ended troop surge in Baghdad. No matter how clever Gen. David Petraeus's battle plan, it won't work unless it can be sustained politically, in Baghdad and Washington. The crucial asset for Petraeus is time, which in turn is a function of political consensus at home. And that asset is wasting, even as the number of U.S. troops goes up.

Here we return to Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, and his partner on the other side of the bipartisan hyphen, former secretary of state James A. Baker III. Four months after its release, the Baker-Hamilton report still looks like the best way to unite Democrats and Republicans before there is a dangerous collision over funding for the war. The report has something for everyone: It shares the Democrats' goal of withdrawing most U.S. troops by March 2008 and stresses the need for milestones in Iraq. But it endorses the Bush administration's view that milestones should be jointly negotiated with the Iraqi government, rather than imposed by Washington. And it recognizes that troop withdrawals must be contingent on political and military conditions on the ground.

But of course the Democrats don't have any power to negotiate milestones with the Iraqi government. And no matter how many shiny objects they wave in Ignatius's face, the fact remains that George W. Bush has no intention of leaving Iraq. He's made this clear many, many times. There are no milestones being negotiated. There are no conditions on the ground which would cause Bush to start withdrawing troops. There is no conceptual definition of the pony such that when we find it we will start to end the war.

Leaving is losing. That's the Bush doctrine. You either embrace what the Democrats are offering, or you embrace Bush's "leaving is losing" plan. The Magical Pundit Pony Plan, which will never happen, is only about gazing at yourself in the mirror so you can marvel at how much smarter you are than all the politicians, instead of bothering to make the choice between the actual options.

4 years later I am so sick of every "what we really need to do in Iraq" column which gets published. None Of That Is Going To Happen. We either stay there under George Bush, or we start to get the fuck out. You don't get to micromanage the war.