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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is the U.S. winning in Iraq? No, sir

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov) - "No, sir." That is what former CIA Director Robert Gates said in reply to a question from Senator Carl Levin at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to consider his appointment as the next defense secretary. Gates made several shocking statements during the meeting. In particular, he said that the president would not have the final say at debates on changing the approach to the war in Iraq, and in general hinted that changes were imminent. He ruled out the possibility of a military operation against Syria, calling instead for talks with Damascus and Tehran. Most importantly, Gates said the U.S.'s goals in Iraq could be attained with a much smaller number of troops. In other words, the withdrawal of Americans from Iraq, even if partial, is unavoidable. The openly anti-Bush stance of the future defense secretary echoes the recently published views of his predecessor. Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major change of course. "In my view it is time for a major adjustment," wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of the dogged, stay-the-course policy. "Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough." Lastly, a report by the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission, or simply the Baker Commission, which is expected to be released on Thursday, recommends (judging by the leaks to the press) halving the number of American troops in Iraq, from 140,000 to 70,000, by 2008 and inviting Iran and Syria to join the effort to stabilize Iraq. The Bush administration may not admit it, but these heretical suggestions are proof that the U.S. has already begun withdrawing from Iraq, if only in the minds of the more far-sighted members of the two-party political elite. In fact, the actual process may start within months. American political analysts have gone hoarse talking about the definition of a U.S. "victory" and "defeat" in Iraq, but they haven't said a word about a military victory. The U.S. army, equipped with the latest space-age technology, has proven to be impotent against the motley guerrilla underground and their preferred weapon: vehicles packed with explosives. If we interpret victory as the spread of Western-style democracy, or at least its seeds, to Iraq, then the United States' efforts have been a complete fiasco. The numerous Iraqi elections of the last few years, the referendum on the constitution and the formal selection of several cabinets look like a staged performance, where plywood is painted green and presented as grass. In the end, a vengeful member of the Baath party, an offended Shia, or a terrorist shoot down the plywood, waking the onlookers up to the stark reality. Therefore, American experts have hit upon a new interpretation of "victory." The U.S. is winning in Iraq because it will soon be able to turn over the effort to pacify the country to its legitimate authorities. Only Iraqis can stop the chaos in their country, albeit with American assistance. But no one is asking a simple question: What if the Iraqis prove unable to restore peace to their country, today or in the foreseeable future? Well, that will be Iraq's headache, not America's.

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