The thing is, I haven't been an advocate of 'take the troops out now.' Simply abandoning Iraq would almost certainly lead to a full-scale civil war (instead of the partial civil war we have now), a theocratic regime, and a partnership with Iran. Which would all be very bad things for the US in the long run. Unfortunately, this administration is more interested in playing "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" with critics than crafting good policy, and we simply aren't going to succeed. So, I was coming to the regrettable conclusion that pulling out was the best possible scenario under this administration. Then Wesley Clark spoke up, and I felt a bit better for being in the "do it right" minority. Recommended reading.
In the old, familiar fashion, mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq have mobilized increasing public doubts about the war. More than half the American people now believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right. But it would also be a mistake to pull out now, or to start pulling out or to set a date certain for pulling out. Instead we need a strategy to create a stable, democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq -- a strategy the administration has failed to develop and articulate.
From the outset of the U.S. post-invasion efforts, we needed a three-pronged strategy: diplomatic, political and military. Iraq sits geographically on the fault line between Shiite and Sunni Islam; for the mission to succeed we will have to be the catalyst for regional cooperation, not regional conflict.
Unfortunately, the administration didn't see the need for a diplomatic track, and its scattershot diplomacy in the region -- threats, grandiose pronouncements and truncated communications -- has been ill-advised and counterproductive. The U.S. diplomatic failure has magnified the difficulties facing the political and military elements of strategy by contributing to the increasing infiltration of jihadists and the surprising resiliency of the insurgency.
On the political track, aiming for a legitimate, democratic Iraqi government was essential, but the United States was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action. A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces. Months went by without a U.S. ambassador in Iraq, and today political development among the Iraqis is hampered by the lack not only of security but also of a stable infrastructure program that can reliably deliver gas, electricity and jobs.
There's a whole lot more-- that's just the opening. I should also mention that much of the liberal blogosphere has been very pro-Clark of late (wow, what a bunch ofradicals, huh?). I agree. I was hoping he'd get the veep slot in 2004, seeing as how he's a little green politically. But the more I hear from him in terms of policy, the more I think he's fit for the top slot.