Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Sane Re-Start for the Iraq Debate

After all the wishful thinking and political posturing on all sides, a basis for serious discussion makes the “tenuous case” for staying in Iraq while scaling down our presence.

The report urging “strategic patience” is by Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank chaired by former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, with a bipartisan board including Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and William S. Cohen, a former Republican Senator who was Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton.

Some recent advances in Iraq, Cordesman writes, are the result of “sheer luck,” such as Sunni tribesmen turning against Al Qaeda insurgents. He quotes an unnamed U.S. official as describing our situation as "three dimensional chess in the dark while someone is shooting at you."

Rejecting the extremes of staying the course or immediate withdrawal, Cordesman makes a case for phasing down troop levels starting early next year.

His analysis and recommendations will draw fire for being too qualified, too middle-of-the-road and politically unsatisfying. But they have the ring of reality, something so rare in the furor over Iraq that has made Americans unhappy with both the Bush Administration and the Democratic Congress elected to oppose him.

Here, at least, is a starting point for facing the true options and thinking seriously about them.

As Cordesman writes, “The U.S. will ultimately be judged far more by how it leaves Iraq, and what it leaves behind, than how it entered Iraq.”

We’ve lost the war. Can we win the withdrawal?

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