Dick Lugar’s Insight

9 04 2008

Andrew Sullivan rightfully praised Senator Dick Lugar for summing up the unsustainable myopia driving the U.S. strategy in Iraq.

None of our witnesses last week claimed that the task in Iraq was simple or that the outcome would likely fulfill the ideal of a pluralist democratic nation closely aligned with the United States. All suggested that spoiling activities and the fissures in Iraqi society could undermine even the most well-designed efforts by the United States. Unless the United States is able to convert progress made thus far into a sustainable political accommodation that supports our long-term national security objectives in Iraq, this progress will have limited meaning. We cannot assume that sustaining some level of progress is enough to achieve success, especially when we know that current American troop levels in Iraq have to be reduced and spoiling forces will be at work in Iraq. We need a strategy that anticipates a political end game and employs every plausible means to achieve it.

Senator Obama also made an interesting yet understated point about managing expectations at the hearing yesterday.

Sen. Obama: I’m not suggesting that we yank all our troops out all the way. I’m trying to get to an endpoint. That’s what all of us have been trying to get to.

And, see, the problem I have is if the definition of success is so high, no traces of Al Qaida and no possibility of reconstitution, a highly-effective Iraqi government, a Democratic multiethnic, multi- sectarian functioning democracy, no Iranian influence, at least not of the kind that we don’t like, then that portends the possibility of us staying for 20 or 30 years.

If, on the other hand, our criteria is a messy, sloppy status quo but there’s not, you know, huge outbreaks of violence, there’s still corruption, but the country is struggling along, but it’s not a threat to its neighbors and it’s not an Al Qaida base, that seems to me an achievable goal within a measurable timeframe, and that, I think, is what everybody here on this committee has been trying to drive at, and we haven’t been able to get as clear of an answer as we would like.

I wonder if those comments, as truthful as they are, will haunt Obama this fall in attack ads this fall.

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