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We're all mad here

Fri, Jun 22nd, 2007
Posted in Commentary

Alice: But, I don't want to go among mad people.

Cheshire Cat: Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.

Alice: How do you know I am mad?

Cheshire Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here.

Alice in Wonderland

The divine madness of Iraq is that reality is always moving further and further away. A bit like Alice chasing the white rabbit, down one hole and up another.

Harry Reid caught hell a few months ago for saying we weren't winning in Iraq.

But we all know that winning in Iraq means not losing, as amorphous as that sounds.

Consequently, in a psychotic kind of way, success is defined as not failing, and this has become the administration's unofficial line on Iraq.

So, are we winning in Iraq?

Well, we are not losing.

How long will it take us not to lose?

Long enough to enable the Iraqi people to succeed.

Oh, but, how long is long enough?

As long as it takes us not to fail, of course.

I suppose that's why Congress wanted to impose benchmarks for progress from the Iraqi government before committing more troops and dollars to Iraq. They too wanted to know how long we would be there after nearly 3,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed, 25,000 wounded and $350 billion spent.

During the Vietnam War, we chased Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's numbers of enemy KIA in an illusional war of attrition. In Iraq, there is the perception that a surge in troops will keep the country from imploding on itself.

But as Colin Powell said a few weeks ago on Meet the Press, a surge only allows us to keep a "heavier lid on this boiling pot of civil war stew."

Powell, like others, suggests that a military solution in Iraq won't work unless there is political solution as well, one that includes reconciliation between Sunis, Shiites and Kurds, and a plan to serve all of the Iraqi people. And then there is the long-term goal of training the Iraqi Army to provide its own security.

So the fundamental question is: How long can the U.S. sustain not losing?

Our government is building a $600 million embassy in Iraq, so it seems that we are putting down some pretty deep roots. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Embassy in Saigon had the largest number of consular staff than any other American embassy in the world at the time.

Our non-military presence in Iraq continues to grow. Covering more than 100 acres, the new embassy will be the largest U.S. consulate in the world. One report estimates that the State Department is 1000 field officers short in meeting it's world-wide needs due to the present demand from Iraq.

Meanwhile, all diplomatic personnel living and working in the Green Zone, a four mile by four mile oasis built around Saddam's former palaces in the middle of Baghdad, are required to wear body armor because al-Qaeda and everyone else can lob rockets inside.

Outside the Green Zone, Sunis are killing Shias, Shias are killing Sunis and everyone else is killing al-Qaeda. The US is now hiring tribal groups to fight al-Qaeda in the notion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Doesn't this sound reminiscent of the Montegnards in Vietnam?

In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, "Would you tell me please, which way I should go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," responds the Cheshire Cat.

And that's where we are in Iraq today: because we are not losing, we can say we are winning; and because we are winning we're not going to cut and run, no matter how long it takes us not to fail.

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