Monday, August 29, 2005

Australian Labor Party leader suggests an exit strategy for Iraq

'You have to win'
Australian Labor Party leader suggests an exit strategy for Iraq
E.J. Dionne, Jr. - Washington Post Writers Group
08.29.05 - SYDNEY, Australia

... The United States, [Beazley] said, needed to engage in "a phased extraction" from Iraq while bolstering the war on terror elsewhere. He used the unlikely role model of Richard Nixon, who gradually withdrew American forces from Vietnam while engaging China and forcing the Soviet Union into arms negotiations.

Beazley's metaphor was an arresting way of showing how mistakes in Iraq need not permanently dent the United States' influence -- provided America recognizes its mistakes.

Beazley proposed the redeployment of American forces to Iraq's borders with Syria and Iran on the road to departure. At the same time, Washington needs to "refocus attention on Afghanistan," particularly the border areas with Pakistan, where he sees the real war on terror being waged. And the United States must turn its attention to the Iraq War's perverse effect, which has been to "advance Iranian power."

"It's repositioning," says Beazley. "It's keeping a sense of proportion in America's engagements. You're not going to let the United States get bogged down in a disproportionate engagement of its forces in Iraq. In both the context of the global war on terror and its other global commitments, the U.S. has more fish to fry than Iraq. And no matter what it says, it can only have a limited effect on Iraqi political outcomes. Ultimately, Iraqis will have to do the deals."

While I will admit to a personal bias in Beazley's favor -- he has been a friend for more than three decades -- the fact is that his comments seized the attention of all the Americans in the room. Here was someone willing to lay out an alternative strategy aimed at freeing the United States from an all-consuming mess in a way that could leave its influence intact. "You have to win, you know," said Beazley. "You cannot lose the war on terror."

To pursue anything like the Beazley strategy, Bush would have to admit that his policy hasn't worked -- to himself, if not to the public. Could Bush's willingness to embrace the flawed Iraqi draft constitution be a signal that the president is radically scaling down his expectations (and ours) in preparation for the "repositioning" that Beazley describes?

It's hard for any president, especially this one, to acknowledge mistakes. But recall that reference to those long ago midterm elections. Republicans know in their guts what Hagel is willing to say publicly: Iraq is a mess and staying the current course means a disaster abroad that could turn into political disaster at home. Don't be surprised if more Republicans start echoing a politician from Down Under...

(c) 2005, Washington Post Writers Group