Red sky at morning

December 01, 2005

President Bush came to Annapolis yesterday to trim his sails - just ever so slightly. Looking, for once, astern, he acknowledged that the war in Iraq had had its rough moments, when things hadn't gone as swimmingly as he used to maintain. But no worry - everything's just getting better and better now. Clear sailing lies ahead. No telling when this ship might actually reach port - the wind and waves are so unpredictable! - but the skipper couldn't be more confident of an eventual and successful landfall.

The president addressed the midshipmen of the Naval Academy and told them that 2 1/2 years into the war, the White House has come up with a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." He also managed to compare the war in Iraq to World War II (which might explain the odd computer-generated rivet images behind him), but it's worth pointing out that 2 1/2 years after Pearl Harbor, American troops were in Normandy, in pursuit of a national strategy for victory that had taken President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower somewhat less time to devise.

And what is this new national strategy? Get Iraqi soldiers to fight better, get Iraqi politicians to govern better, and get Iraqi citizens to spurn the insurgents. Do that, and victory's a cinch. It couldn't be simpler, except the part about getting it to happen.

Mr. Bush says he won't promise to bring the troops home on a schedule but the mission's changing and there should be less fighting on the ground by Americans and if all goes well the troops will start to come home without a schedule. The Iraq that will be left behind will be standing on its own two feet, in control of its destiny.

It would be great, if it were believable.

The president's new 35-page "National Strategy" addresses the forward march of democracy and human rights in Iraq. But there's no mention of Shiite death squads within the police, torturing and murdering Sunni Arabs; there's no talk, either, of a secret Pentagon propaganda effort, reported by the Los Angeles Times, that is somehow supposed to coincide with the free press Mr. Bush is so proud of fostering. And there's no acknowledgement that the fighting in Iraq seems to be creating new insurgents and jihadists faster than it can kill them off.

For the record, the Iraqi insurgency is not in its last throes. The country is deteriorating into a vicious civil conflict, and the United States has only bad choices ahead. The man at the helm seems blind to that, intent as he is on chasing after a pipe-dream vision of success.

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