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See, Steve

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Jul 4, 2005
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Bush is finally admitting what that "liberal, biased press" has been saying for months: things have not gone the way he expected in Iraq. Entire article; my emphasis; link below.

"A more candid Bush subtly alters pitch on Iraq

It's important for presidents in wartime to radiate resolve, rallying the nation to the cause. But if the words from the White House veer too far from reality, just the opposite happens. That is why the nation is divided over Iraq, as it once was over Vietnam. When the reasons for invading Iraq were discredited, many who had supported the decision fled. The administration's insistence that all was going well, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, drove more away.

So it was a subtle but welcome shift on Wednesday when President Bush, in the second of four speeches on Iraq, narrowed the gap between wishful thinking and hard reality. He did so in two notable ways that suggest an exit strategy:

Bush acknowledged difficulties and blunders in the rebuilding effort. In his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, the president admitted that "reconstruction has not always gone as well as we had hoped." An understatement, perhaps, but an overdue reflection of reality.

For all the good intentions and the billions of dollars poured into Iraq, rebuilding the electrical grid, oil pipelines and other infrastructure has stumbled in the face of an insurgency dedicated to stopping it. Bush said he had switched to a new approach, for Iraqis to lead as the United States provides support.

Whether that is working is less clear. Even so, by being more candid about the obstacles and the problems the Iraqis face — high unemployment, poor electric supplies, corruption and more — he at least began to develop a credible base for building support.

•Bush gave more shape to an evolving plan for a U.S. pullback. Under the recalibrated approach, Iraqis would be given support in building a democracy, but U.S. troops would ultimately make hunting terrorists their primary goal. This is what has happened in Afghanistan.

The approach might be little more than a variation of the declare-victory-and-get-out solution to Vietnam four decades ago. But it is the best of bad options, especially in the context of plummeting support.

It stops well short of an abrupt pullout that risks leaving Iraq as a country at least partially in the grips of terrorists. Yet it avoids the decades of nation-building for which the U.S. public has little appetite and the military has little aptitude.

Though Bush narrowed the credibility gap, he didn't close it. On the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, he repeated his insistence on "complete victory," as if the U.S. role in Iraq will end with peace, full-blown democracy and Iraq a full partner in the war on terror. If that's possible at all, it's likely decades away.

Nonetheless, Bush's emerging plan might salvage a more realistic goal: one in which U.S. forces pull back to the edges of a relatively stable country that is not a terrorist haven, but remain on call for emergencies.

The road map is improving even as the destination is still being oversold."


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