Yesterday I wrote that Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel would make a palatable presidential candidate in the 2008 election. He has an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post that illustrates what I’m talking about.
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis — not the Americans.
Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.
The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation — regardless of our noble purpose.
We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
You can quibble about the “honorable intentions” part, but otherwise — he’s got it.
Sen. Hagel goes on to call for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. He ends this way:
It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder — one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead.
To squander this moment would be to squander future possibilities for the Middle East and the world. That is what is at stake over the next few months.
For the past several days Chris Matthews and his surrogates have complained that the Dems plan to “hide behind” the Baker commission. He is of course ignoring the fact that (a) the Dems can’t actually do anything about Iraq until January, and (b) even then they won’t have a veto-proof majority. It really would be better for everybody if there can be some bipartisan consensus in Congress on how to leave Iraq, and it makes sense to see if the Baker Commission comes up with something that a majority of both parties can get behind.
That said, I very much doubt the Baker Commission will deliver. As I wrote here, it appears the White House already may have co-opted the Iraq Study Group to force them to crank out more “strategy for victory” crapola. I do not believe for one minute that President Bush will accept any recommendations that involve withdrawal from Iraq before his term is up. And Bush can no more “build a bipartisan consensus” than he can fly. So the fight will be on, no matter what.
But it would be to everyone’s advantage if at least some Republicans in Congress join the fight on our side, and Senator Hagel’s op ed gives me some hope that can happen.