Friday, May 11, 2007

Are We Nearing an Elephant Stampede?

Like their symbol, Republicans can exhibit a herd mentality that is an awesome spectacle to behold. Lots of evidence has been accumulating as to the possibility of a sudden lurching move by the president's party against the Iraq war as soon as late summer.

Although, given their propensity to pander to the lowest common denominator, this is by no means a sure thing.

From this morning's New York Times editorial:

The difference between mainstream hawks and mainstream doves on Iraq seems to have boiled down to two months, with House Democrats now demanding visible progress by July while moderate Republicans are willing to give White House policies until September, but no longer, to show results.

Then there is President Bush, who has yet to acknowledge the reality that Congressional Republicans and even administration officials like Defense Secretary Robert Gates now seem to tacitly accept. Three months into Mr. Bush's troop escalation, there is no real security in Baghdad and no measurable progress toward reconciliation, while American public support for this folly has all but run out.

The really important question now facing Washington is the one Mr. Bush still refuses to address: how, while there is still some time left, to design an exit strategy that contains the chaos in Iraq and minimizes the damage to United States interests when American troops inevitably leave.

There was no shortage of reminders this week of how swiftly and thoroughly the political landscape has shifted against the war. Yesterday, the House voted to approve the next two months worth of war spending, linking further money to a progress report from the administration in July. On Tuesday, a delegation of Republican moderates went to the White House to warn Mr. Bush that they could not continue supporting his war beyond September unless conditions improved markedly. ...

If Mr. Bush hopes to salvage anything from his 20 months left in office, and, more to the point, if he wants to play a constructive role in the accelerating Iraq endgame, he needs to understand how much has changed in this country, and how tragically little has changed in Iraq.

The American people are no longer willing to write blank checks of blood and treasure to an Iraqi government that has refused to stop rampaging Shiite militias, has failed to approve constitutional changes to bring estranged Sunni Arabs back into the political system, and has still not come up with a way to share oil revenues fairly. Now it wants to give itself a two-month summer vacation.

Mr. Bush needs to face up to this grim reality and abandon his fantasies of ultimate victory and vindication. Otherwise, he could find himself, and America's best long-term interests, run over by a bipartisan rush toward the nearest exit.

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