"I find myself in email conversations with various readers, attempting to explain why I remain a skeptic about the ability of even the most gifted general to turn around an already far-gone sectarian civil war in Iraq. My pessimism is greeted by the argument that we have to plow on anyway - or give in to terrorists. But this begs a further question: which terrorists? The Shiites? Or the Sunnis? Al Qaeda or Iranian-backed death squads? The metric is no longer Iraq versus terror; it's Shia terror versus Sunni terror versus al Qaeda terror. In those circumstances, the most relevant question to ask anyone supporting Plus Up is simply: who do you want to win? Since we are engaged in a civil war, and since wars are designed to defeat one side, which side are we trying to defeat? The first question in wartime is: whose side are you on? The fact that no one can currently answer that question is the best reason to cut our losses."
"[I]t seemed to me -- and I hope I'm not playing the role of clumsy Kremlinologist here -- to suggest that the Bush administration has reduced its definition of 'victory' in Iraq to an almost comically-low level. (It would be comical, but for the tragedy.) And that perhaps the Administration now believes that a helicopters-leaving-from-the-embassy-rooftop defeat is all but inevitable, and that their hopes are now pinned on the long view of history - sure, just like in Vietnam, we'll have 'lost,' but in the fullness of time, we'll actually win."
" . . . we have a deeply unpopular president, who’s sitting somewhere around 30 percent in the polls, and the purportedly co-equal branch of government is not only incapable of taking any real action, it’s essentially tongue-tied as well. The polls also show that, by roughly 30-point margins, most Americans want Congress – not Bush – to take the lead on Iraq policy. But the Bush war team knows full well that this will never happen."
-- DICK POLMAN
Photography by Erik de Castro/Reuters