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Someone Gets It

As foreign policy types, politicians and commentators in the U.S. are getting stirred up about the new report by the Iraq Study Group—what’s in it, whether there are “alternatives between… ‘stay the course’ and ‘cut and run'” as James Baker said, whether President Bush and the Democratic Congress will be able to find common ground—there is one man who has noticed the futility of all this. Richard Holbrooke, Bosnia peace negotiator and President Clinton’s last ambassador to the U.N., understands that the U.S. is no longer in control of the situation. The time for dictating “solutions” from Washington is over. In Iraq, the damage has been done. As he put it in a quote at the end of a Washington Post article today:

    For all the excitement in Washington, this will be decided on the ground in Baghdad. The United States has lost its capacity to shape the events on the ground, regardless of what’s recommended by the commission, regardless of what’s done by the U.S. military and the president.

What this means is that the debate we’ll be hearing over the next few months in Washington is meaningless. It’s for domestic consumption, one last attempt by U.S. policy makers to flatter themselves and deceive the public. It’s about delaying the inevitable confrontation with reality, the moment when the train flies from the tracks. The rest of the world knows the truth already. The result will be the same no matter which way the debate goes. The U.S. will get out of Iraq, too late and in haste, leaving behind a huge mess. And America will be left with the moral responsibility for what happened—particularly the Bush administration, but also Congress, the media and the people. Let history judge.

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