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White Christmas

Fri, Dec 8th, 2006
Posted in Commentary

The Iraq Study Group has issued its report, instilling some well-needed reality to the debate on Iraq.

The greatest accomplishment of the study group, given the political weight of its members, is truly a political one - changing the level and tone of the discussion in the country. President Bush will no longer be able to divide the country with his simplistic black and white platitudes of 'stay the course' or 'cut and run.'

That said, and with all due respect to the ten bipartisan members of the group, ten citizens from ten different parts of the country could have come to the same conclusions with a bit of study and discussion. None of the recommendations are counter-intuitive: the need to change course in how the war is being conducted; the need to set milestones for the Iraqi government to meet, including containing the sectarian violence that is crippling the country; and the need to try diplomatic engagement with the countries of the Middle East, including Syria and Iran.

The reality is that we are quitting Iraq. It's just a matter of how soon and under what conditions. The Iraq Study Group gives the Administration a short political window of time to get this done. Our best hope is that the country does not implode on itself, something the United States, regardless of what it does, has little control over.

In Vietnam, our involvement began under presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy with military trainers working with the South Vietnamese to help them fight their own fight. In 1965, under President Johnson, our role escalated to direct combatants when two Marine battalions landed at Danang. Eight years later, following the Paris Peace Agreement, signed on January 23, 1973, which President Richard Nixon labelled Peace With Honor, the U.S. began pulling out its main troops and reverted to the role of military advisors once again.

In Iraq, the tables have been turned: the U.S. invaded, occupied the country and is now trying to find a way to reduce our role to one of military trainers and advisors. Despite all the cheerleading going on about helping the Iraqis fight their own fight, I don't think anyone gives this much chance of success.

I have talked to a few Vietnam era vets recently, and they see in our debacle in Iraq a bit of dej vu - sacrificing our troops until we can exit with honor. They see pulling back to the borders as the only sane option. There is nothing to be won anymore; Democracy in Iraq, if that is what we are fighting for, is screwed.

When Tito died, the Yugoslav coalition died with it, and you ended up with Serbs killing Croats and all kinds of ethnic enclaves becoming countries in the end.

Our toppling of Saddam created a political vacuum that has seen the balance of power shift from one ethnic group to another. And now, the Shia are not going to let the Sunnis share power no matter what the U.S. decides to do.

What Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have done in Iraq is so tragic. And now we are going to blame the fragile Iraqi government for not being able to rule and stop the violence. In the end, we will leave and let them sort it all out. So, as my vet friends ask, "Why keep troops there any longer; why sacrifice anymore Americans?"

They are right of course, but it is not politically feasible for us to leave as of yet, although the study group's work helps create the conditions for doing just that.

The South Vietnamese government refused to sign the Paris Peace Agreement, because they believed it would be signing their own death warrant, and they were right. It took two years for the South Vietnamese government to fall.

When Saigon was about to be taken over by the North Vietnamese, the code signal for Americans to assemble at the U.S. Embassy to flee the country came when Armed Forces Radio played Bing Crosby's White Christmas.

I wonder what we will play this time?

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