The American Interest

Iraq: The Least Bad Scenario

The Democrats’ victory on November 7 and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s departure a day later marked the beginning of the end game in Iraq.  The moment is reminiscent of December 1970, when President Nixon decided to pull U.S. forces out of Vietnam by the end of the following year.  The major difference is that Nixon’s decision was very much his own—his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, among others, had opposed it—whereas President George W. Bush would have preferred to “stay the course” “until the job is done.”

It is noteworthy that Dr. Kissinger, ever the realist, declared last November that the United States would have to choose between stability and democracy in Iraq—and that democracy was out of reach: “I think that’s reality.  I think that was true from the beginning,” he said.

Iraq is not a nation in the historic sense . . . The evolution of democracy . . . usually has to go through a phase in which a nation [is] born.  And by attempting to skip that process, our valid goals were distorted into what we are now seeing.

The Bush policy has failed.  The “job” has never been clearly defined, and therefore—to paraphrase Mr. Rumsfeld—the presumed moment of its successful completion has always been an unknown unknown.  Domestic approval...

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