is not going to happen. But Mr. Victory is talking as fast as
he can to avoid thinking about JFK's next line: "Defeat is
Bush, whom I characterized a week
ago as running a strong race to be our worst president ever,
will look a little better next week after the Iraqi elections
we made possible. That would be a good thing for Iraq as it seems
to collapse before our eyes. Certainly our ever-changing strategies
there are collapsing. In fact, the "Plan for Victory,"
as the president called his speech at the U.S. Naval Academy,
is a strategy to mask defeat.
the new strategy, borrowed from failure in Vietnam and 19th-century
British colonialism, could be called "Bases and Borders."
The president put it this way: "We will increasingly move
out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we
operate and conduct fewer patrols and convoys."
What we will
do, as laid out in the 35-page strategy paper that accompanied
the Annapolis speech, is to begin redeploying our troops in force-protection
areas. They will then venture out on raids now and then -- and
try to secure the borders from what Bush called "regional
meddling and infiltration." That means trying to block Syria,
Iran and Turkey from pursuing their interests on Iraqi soil.
Iraqi units will be left to try to turn the Iraqi-protected cities
into larger versions of what were called "strategic hamlets"
in Vietnam. The border strategy is an updating of the Demilitarized
Zone between South and North Vietnam, or British forts along barren
boundaries between tribes in make-believe countries. Unfortunately
for us, the real problems of our adventure are already inside
the borders of Iraq. Once more we are in a civil war, this time
one we helped trigger by clumsily overthrowing a vicious dictatorship.
And all the
while, as happened at home in the 1970s and happened in Britain
in the late 1800s, we will tear up our own country in the process.
I got a sample of that last week, when I compared Bush with poor
old James Buchanan, blamed by many as the president who made our
own Civil War inevitable. The number of e-mails I received topped
10,000 and counting, the majority of them heavy on two words,
one printable, "f...ing" and "moron." (Many
of them can be read on richardreeves.com or Yahoo!News Op-Ed.)
Not all the
reaction was bad, and not all of the bad was bad. There are valid
arguments for "staying the course," though I was partial
to e-mail 11,409, which said on the subject of Iraq threatening
us: "If we had waited for Vietnam to invade us, we'd still
thrust of the reaction to emphasizing Bush's proud and stubborn
ignorance of history was that people like me, who were against
this thing from the start and laid out how it would inevitably
end, are the reason it has gone badly. Actually the reason adventures
like this go badly is that we attacked people who have occupied
desert or jungle for thousands of years, and will still be there
a thousand years from now -- and we won't.
neighborhood is inhospitable," Bush told our future Navy
and Marine officers. He got that right. It would have been better
if he understood that from the beginning rather than listening
to the flag-waving pipe dreams of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and
a good election next week. Let that be the beginning of Iraqis
fighting each other for a new Iraq -- or no Iraq, which is a possibility.
Then President Bush can "redeploy." He could take a
lesson from his hero, President Reagan, who vowed to stay the
course after his reckless words siding with Christians against
Muslims in Lebanon in 1983 led to the killing of more than 250
U.S. Marine peacekeepers in a suicide bombing at the Beirut airport.
Then Reagan waited a few weeks and announced "redeployment"
-- to ships 30 miles offshore.