The Corner

How to Lose Iraq

Newsweek is quoting a “senior Bush aide” as saying U.S. troops will leave Iraq if there is a civil war.  The comment follows last week’s Senate hearings and a lot of back-and-forth on the weekend talk shows about what happens if there would be civil war.  Rice and others parried the questions, saying they wouldn’t answer hypothetical questions.  They were smart.  Caught up in U.S. political games, it’s easy for some politicians—seeing the Iraq situation through the lens of their own political ambitions—to forget how those in Iraq interpret their words.  In this case, though, a White House or National Security Council official screwed up.  She might as well have hung a banner declaring, “You’re within inches of victory.  Set off just a few more suicide bombs and we’ve had it.”  That may not be true, but the terrorists are now sure to try.  It’s time National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley—to whom the Iraq aides in the White House answer—gets his crew under control.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

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