Monday, August 21, 2006

The reviews are getting worse

As we march toward the November elections, the reviews of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq are getting worse.

Joe Lieberman turns around and bites the GOP hand that was wooing him, joining Hillary Clinton in saying Donald Rumsfeld should resign.

"With all respect to Don Rumsfeld, who has done a grueling job for six years, we would benefit from new leadership to work with our military in Iraq," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Lieberman said the Bush administration should have sent more troops into Iraq "to secure the country."

"We had a naive vision that the Iraqis were going to embrace us and then go on and live happily ever after," he said.

It's kind of sad when it takes a senior senator three years to reach the same conclusion many of us reached soon after the invasion.

Meanwhile, Chuck Hagel says the GOP has lost its way.

"First time I voted was in 1968 on top of a tank in the Mekong Delta," said Hagel, a Vietnam veteran. "I voted a straight Republican ticket. The reason I did is because I believe in the Republican philosophy of governance. It's not what it used to be. I don't think it's the same today."

Hagel asked: "Where is the fiscal responsibility of the party I joined in '68? Where is the international engagement of the party I joined _ fair, free trade, individual responsibility, not building a bigger government, but building a smaller government?"

His frustration does not lead him to think Democrats offer a better alternative. But Hagel wants to see the GOP return to its basic beliefs.

"I think we've lost our way," Hagel said. "And I think the Republicans are going to be in some jeopardy for that and will be held accountable."

Besides opinion polls showing sagging support for our strategy in Iraq, there might be a couple of other explanations for the increasingly pessimistic views.

One is a NYT Magazine piece from this Sunday, which I'll blog about next.

The other is the increasing opinion among security experts that we're losing. Foreign Policy magazine surveyed 100 experts -- conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. A whopping 84 percent said we're not winning the fight against terror. Most were critical of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, our overreliance on force, and many other aspects of our antiterror strategy.

The list of respondents is here.

Administration supporters like to criticize their opponents for not having an alternative plan. That's false on the face of it: Lots of plans exist, from "send more troops" to "pull out now." But the argument skips over the real issue. A basic military maxim is "don't reinforce failure." Continuing to tout a failing strategy -- and that's essentially what "stay the course" means -- is a worse failure. You may not like the alternative options, but if the choice is between a failed plan and trying something else, you try something else.

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