Bush, Blair, Iraq

They were different men last night - for the first time dropping all pretense that their occupation of Iraq has gone in any way according to non-existent plan. And in a strange way, that helps them. They both have expiration dates marked on their heads; they share this legacy; they remain committed to it, because they have no other realistic option. But their acknowledgment of the "ghastly" violence, their ownership of past mistakes, and the clear interest we all have in seeing the project succeed makes things in some ways less fraught. They get it now: bravado is not strength; realism is. I'm with Tom Friedman on this one. We're three years in. Remember the Kurds? They were effectively liberated fifteen years ago. They experienced a brutal civil war before their society was able to gain some semblance of pluralist normality. The violence in Iraq was preventable - but it may also, in a horrifying way, have been a way to purge the society of the terrible grievances and divides that are the consequences of several decades of brutal dictatorship. Iraq is still the lever for real, profound change in the Middle East. It is our only real brake on Iran. It is the front line against Jihadism. Our job will not be finished in two more years; maybe not in twenty. But this is America. It can be done. Bringing the Arab and Muslim world into the new millennium is a pre-requisite for our own security and the world's. We must finish the job.