I have to wonder how long the planet can take all of this. Do all of America's military men and women want to stay in Iraq for all that time? Will the rest of the world prop up the US dollar for the next decade at least, so that the US government borrow the money necessary to finance all this? What happens when they decide they've had enough?
What Staying the Course Means
Let me now admit to having second thoughts on this matter. I no longer am convinced that the U.S. adventure in Iraq is lost. There is no guarantee that the Bush administration cannot succeed in its goals there. The only certain thing is that success -- what the president calls "victory in Iraq" -- will come at the expense of thousands more American deaths, tens of thousands more Iraqi deaths, and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.
Indeed, this war would have to be sustained not only by this administration, but by the next one and probably the one after that as well. For over three years, the United States has supported a massive military presence on the ground in Iraq, while taking steady casualties. It may be no less capable of doing so for the next two-and-a-half years, until the end of Bush's second term -- and during the next administration's reign, too, whether the president is named John McCain or Hillary Clinton. At least theoretically, a force of more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers could wage a brutal war of attrition against the resistance in Iraq for years to come. Last week, in a leak to the New York Times, the White House announced its intention to leave at least 50,000 troops in Iraq for many years to come. Last week, too, the son of the president of Iraq (a Kurd) revealed that representatives of the Kurdish region are in negotiations with the United States to create a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq's north.
Meanwhile, President Bush and his Rasputin, Karl Rove, took the occasion of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to reiterate their unalterable commitment to victory in Iraq, whatever the cost. There is no reason not to take Bush at his word. And there is no reason not to believe that Rove will orchestrate a withering offensive against Democrats who question the president's goal of victory.
The frightening thing about last week's House and Senate debates over Iraq was that the mainstream opposition to the Bush administration -- ranging from moderate Democrats to realist, if pro-military, moderate Republicans -- never challenges the goal of victory in Iraq. Yes, a hardy band of antiwar members of Congress (including Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee of California, and others, joined by John Murtha of Pennsylvania) support the unconditional withdrawal of American troops. But the bulk of the Democrats, including the 42 Democrats who last week voted in favor of the bloodthirsty Republican war resolution, don't question the importance of victory in Iraq. They just question the Bush administration's tactics.