Vital Signs

Iraq: Whither the United States?

Concerned about declining confidence in his administration’s policy in Iraq—and, equally important, falling support for his reelection campaign—President George W. Bush gave the first of several planned speeches on Iraq to an audience at the Army War College.  Alas, he offered the usual platitudes about providing Iraq “a free, representative government” and occupying that country only for “as long as necessary.”  He promised that “Iraqis will govern their own affairs”—except, apparently, such peripheral matters as changing occupation rules and blocking U.S. military action.

U.S. forces will not be coming home soon.  Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz recently told Congress: “I think it’s entirely possible that U.S. troops could be stationed in Iraq for years.”  At best, “we will be able to let [the Iraqis] be in the front lines and us be in a supporting position.”  Yet the Pentagon has developed contingency plans for inserting another 25,000 soldiers, should the security situation deteriorate.  Unfortunately, the President’s warning that “Terrorists are likely to become more active and more brutal” is nearly his only prediction that has proved to be accurate.

Suicide bombings are not the only barrier to progress.  Consider the problems leading up to the creation of the provisional...

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