The occupation of Iraq has become the dark horse of the 2004 presidential campaign. With the number of casualties mounting and an end to hostilities nowhere in sight, the next president will face the tall tasks of withdrawing U.S. troops and leaving behind an Iraqi democracy.
The Iraq invasion and its 18-month aftermath have shown President George W. Bush to be either terribly dishonest or horribly incompetent. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry constructs his proposals around building more international support and providing better training for Iraqi security forces to ease the burden on the United States.
While this plan is far from perfect, it inspires far more confidence than Bush’s disturbing refusals to acknowledge the ugly mess Iraq has become. The case against Bush is overwhelming: Every point in his case for war has proven patently false.
The much-feared stocks of weapons of mass destruction never materialized and have likely been gone for quite some time.
Far from welcoming U.S. troops with open arms, a majority of Iraqis have long favored an immediate U.S. pullout. An unknown number now lend tacit support to an insurgency that continues to claim U.S. lives each day.
A small military force armed to the teeth with precision-guided munitions has proven woefully incapable of maintaining security or rebuilding Iraq’s crumbled infrastructure.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process remains at a standstill, defying neoconservative thinkers who insisted that the road to Jerusalem led through Baghdad.
The costs of our go-it-alone approach in Iraq should provoke outrage. U.S. military planners now envision current troop strengths through 2007. U.S. taxpayers are shouldering the financial burden alone, now $200 billion and counting. Those financial costs pale beside the human toll of the war: more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers dead, thousands more wounded, unknown numbers of Iraqi civilians caught in the crossfire; and a country ravaged by yet more violence.
A Kerry administration might find itself effectively hamstrung by the mess Iraq has become under Bush. But it might also secure some of the international support the Bush administration blithely ignored in its rush to war.
Either way, it’s time for a new approach in Iraq.