Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How Does This End?

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Scarecrow over at Firedoglake has written an essay about the answer -- or the lack of an answer -- to an implied question David Petraeus posed at the start of the Iraq war, almost four years ago. The question is: "Tell me how this ends." Rather than attempt to paraphrase the piece, I suggest you read what Scarecrow has to say. Here are a few paragraphs from the opening:

I doubt that the President understands this question. As best I can tell, the President and his “national security team,” seem to be preoccupied with not losing a war they started, especially not during Bush’s term. They still believe, or at least claim to believe, that they can still “win” their war. But that belief seems be based on the non sequitur that since the consequences of losing are unthinkable to them, winning is the only option. As McCain put it, “It’s just so hard for me to contemplate failure that I can’t make the next step.” McCain repeated the argument for WaPo and before AEI, and AEI’s Frederick Kagan added his own fears about the consequences of failure on CSPAN’s Washington Journal. Henry Kissinger, who helped Nixon deny that we lost the Viet Nam war, and left that unhappy result for President Ford, is the current President’s model for how to leave a losing hand to the hapless sap that follows you.

I have been struggling with a similar question ever since I watched the twin towers in flames and heard the instant analysis that we had been attacked by an extremist Islamic group called al-Qaeda. Beyond the horrors of death and destruction, all I could think of was, “we have become the Middle East. We will be just like the Israelis and the Palestinans, locked in the cycle of hatred, revenge and counter revenge, with no clear vision of how we get out of that cycle. And our leaders will not see this until it is too late.”

I knew then that our President and the people around him were unlikely to understand what was about to happen to the country in the absence of an extraordinary and unprecedented alternative vision. If anyone was articulating such a vision, they could not be heard over the President’s bullhorn and chest thumping. We would invade Afghanistan in months, and Iraq a year after that.

The absence of an alternative vision not based on unilateral military intervention continues to drive American foreign policy and represents its most profound failure. It is a lack of imagination far more serious than the inability to forsee hijacked airplanes flying into buildings.

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