In marked contrast to the optimism that the Bush administration and its supporters expressed about developments in Iraq as late as the spring of 2006, only a few diehards now deny that the security environment there is dire. When Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked secretary of defense nominee Robert Gates whether the United States was winning in Iraq, Gates replied bluntly: “No, sir.” The Bush-appointed bipartisan Iraq Study Group epitomized the new pessimism, noting in its December 2006 report that the situation in Iraq is “grave and deteriorating.”
There is no shortage of suggestions about what the United States should do going forward. Unfortunately, many of the loudest voices belong to the same people who prodded the Bush administration into invading and occupying Iraq in the first place. If we are to extricate the United States from the Iraqi quagmire, the first step must be to ignore the “experts” who led us into that morass and begin to listen to real experts who correctly warned about that debacle.
It is clear in retrospect that the administration and its supporters miscalculated badly. President Bush’s May 1, 2003, speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln beneath a large “Mission Accomplished” banner was the perfect symbol for the misplaced optimism that pervaded the administration and its hawkish political allies.