Things just aren't working for us in Iraq. Newsweek reports (tip off: Kevin Drum) that we're in an even worse situation than has hither to been acknowledged. Quote:
"But the truth is, neither party is fully reckoning with the reality of Iraq—which is that the insurgents, by most accounts, are winning. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general who stays in touch with the Joint Chiefs, has acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks, NEWSWEEK has learned. The insurgents have effectively created a reign of terror throughout the country, killing thousands, driving Iraqi elites and technocrats into exile and scaring foreigners out. 'Things are getting really bad,' a senior Iraqi official in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government told NEWSWEEK last week. 'The initiative is in [the insurgents'] hands right now. This approach of being lenient and accommodating has really backfired. They see this as weakness.'
Washington has declared several times that the insurgency would soon be defeated or at least mostly neutralized. Senior officials made such statements when electricity was restored to its pre-occupation levels in 2003, when Saddam was captured in December, when sovereignty was handed over on June 28. Each time the insurgency has only grown. Now even military officials who are hopeful the insurgency can be defeated—or perhaps just reduced to a violent annoyance—say it will be a long haul no matter who is U.S. president.
We've got a mess on our hands, no doubt about it. And yet, inexplicably, some trust the man who caused the mess to get us out of it. Presumably, if Bush had a plan to fix Iraq, we'd have seen it by now. That Iraq is still mired in an insurgency, indeed, that the insurgency has only grown as time has passed, is a powerful indictment against the Bush administration.
UPDATE: Daniel Drezner also runs with this issue for awhile. Specifically, he uses it to utterly dismantle the Chicago Boyz's (by way of Instapundit) claim that Bush has done a great job on this war. They write:
Now the one thing that strikes me about the military efforts to date is just how incredibly successful they've been, and how masterfully planned and executed they turned out to be. Not perfect, of course (You mean there's terrorists setting off explosives? Against Americans and their supporters? In the Middle East, no less? Say it isn't so!). But a lot of the toys that John Kerry voted against turned out to be damned useful in the War on Terror. I don't want to even think about how an Afghanistan operation with Vietnam-era technology and tactics would have gone for us - I think in that case we'd have been wishing for another Vietnam. And if you've ever cracked a history book, you'll realize that only 1200 deaths in a year and a half of invading a dictatorship, overthrowing its dictator, and fighting a chronic insurgency is astoundingly good news, especially when added to the fact that the long-predicted flood of refugees never materialized, the terrorists that Saddam's regime had nothing whatsoever to do with suddenly got extremely interested in the fate of Iraq . . . and Iraqis are still signing up to take on the battle for their country against these thugs and getting set to vote in their first-ever real election in a couple of months.
And the Commander-in-Chief at the helm during these amazing accomplishments is called incompetent? You've got to be kidding me.
Drezner notes that
"There is one point in this narrative on which I absolutely agree -- the observable costs of the insurgency in Iraq, measured in either men or material, is nowhere near the cost of what transpired in Vietnam. We're talking about differences by several orders of magnitude.
There is, of course, the question of unobservable costs -- and read Ambassador Peter Galbraith's disturbing account in the Boston Globe on that issue.
More importantly, there is the question of trend -- are things betting better or worse in Iraq over time? And here's where I part company with the above narrative."
He then quotes from the above Newsweek article to illustrate this point. The point that I think is relevant here is this. Whether or not Bush has done a good, or even remotely competent job of fighting this war goes beyond simple body counts. Whether or not we are "succeeding" in Iraq is a direct function of how likely it is that country is going to end up as a stable, functional democracy. If it becomes a new haven for terrrorists, then we are losing even if we don't incur a single new casualty. If it replaces its old dictator with a new dictator, we've failed even if we don't incur a single new casualty. The proper measure of Bush's policies in post-war Iraq is whether or not they've been facilitative of our goals for the region: Democratization and Anti-terrorism. The fact is, they haven't been. They haven't been because our hubris has turned the local population against us. They haven't because our spurning of offered international assistance has reinforced the perception that this is an imperial mission. They haven't because the interim government loses credibilty every time it identifies itself with the US. They haven't because increasingly, democrats in the region like Ayatollah Ali Sistani are viewing the US as an obstacle, rather than an aid, to democracy. They haven't because the situation in Iraq has deteriorated to the point where the National Intelligence Estimate foresees a reasonable chance that the country will fall into civil war. All of these issues are problems for which the Bush administration can, and must, be held culpable for.