Remember the War?


To my mind, Iraq and Afghanistan should be the central issue in this campaign. We need to talk more about IEDs than IMs. The news from both Iraq and Afghanistan is dreadful and disturbing. There are reports of a suicide bombing cell in Kabul and a serious risk of losing the South of that country to the Taliban. In Iraq, the latest effort to bring order to Baghdad, the minimal amount necessary to stabilize the country, appears to be failing. This is despite a real commitment of resources to the capital, more U.S. troops and a systematic sweep of bad neighborhoods. Money quote:

An intensified U.S.-Iraqi military sweep launched in Baghdad in August has been clearing neighborhoods house by house of weapons, militiamen and insurgents.

Despite the sweep, the capital continues to see a deadly combination of attacks by Sunni insurgents and tit-for-tat killings and bombings by Shiite militias and Sunni groups, which have killed thousands this month.

The American fatalty rate just jumped. The fundamental issue is whether the "government" there has any monopoly of violence, which makes it possible for US troops to delegate responsibility for public order. It appears it doesn't. Even government ministers backed by their own militias are finding it hard to control them as sectarian mayhem advances. At some point, the U.S. will have few people to talk to in order to restore order, let alone a functioning state. Here's another deeply troubling statistic I found in the NYT today:

A government organization responsible for overseeing Shiite mosques issued a report on Tuesday that offered another window into the sectarian violence that has plagued Iraq since the destruction of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February.

In the two and a half years before then, going back to August 2003, there were only 80 attacks on Shiite mosques, the report said. In the eight months since the Samarra bombing, there have been 69. More than 1,700 people have been killed in such attacks since 2003.

All of this forces us to making the toughest decision yet. The status quo is unacceptable. We must either ratchet up our effort or cut our losses. If I had confidence in the leadership, I'd back the former. Under Rumsfeld, I have zero confidence in any effort to stabilize Iraq. But we know this president is simply immune to pressure unless forced. So vote Democrat. Give them partial responsibility for the war effort - before a presidential election. And force Bush finally to take some responsibility for the chaos he has helped create.

(Photo: Yuri Kozyrev/Time.)