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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

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A Washington Post special correspondent watched as the corpses of three women and three boys who appeared to be younger than 10 were removed Tuesday from the house outside the town of Baiji, 150 miles north of Baghdad.

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“The country’s on the verge of a civil war,” he said, and told the soldiers the mission now is to transfer responsibility for Iraq stability to Iraqi troops, including what he said had been “neglected police capacity.”

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Although most of these wounds have been self-inflicted, I suspect the thoughtful Republican realists in the Senate (and in the military, intelligence services and State Department) have recognized that Iraq symbolizes Bush’s catastrophic stewardship of U.S. national interests on the global scale. Not only has the idea of projecting force into the heart of the Middle East with the aim of transforming its politics along lines desired by Washington been a disaster — even the elections the administration so proudly touts portend civil war and an entrenchment of the insurgency — the U.S. appears to have lost any prospect of securing short-term tactical advantages from its occupation (access to Iraqi oil reserves; long-term military bases from which force can be projected throughout the region). And in the process the U.S. has squandered the deterrent power of its military by showing the limits of its capacity to sustain an occupation, emboldening the likes of Iran — which, curiously enough, ends up holding the key to the U.S. exit strategy by virtue of its influence with the Shiite parties that appear to have again prevailed at the polls. And the failure of the invasion to vindicate a universally unpopular decision to invade (by either turning up weapons of mass destruction, or by producing a more, not less stable region) have accelerated the decline of U.S. leadership over its traditional allies. The whole episode has made it possible for allies to say no to Washington, and then to cluck in smug sympathy while conspicuously avoiding saying “told you so.”

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