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Rich Lowry finally comes out of denial about Bush:

Bush simply has failed to run his war. Historian Eliot Cohen describes how, in contrast, the best American wartime president conducted himself: "Lincoln had not merely to select his generals, but to educate, train and guide them. To this end he believed that he had to master the details of war, from the technology to the organization and movement of armies, if only to enable himself to make informed judgments about general officers."

Bush has taken the opposite approach and — for all his swagger and protectiveness of executive prerogatives — is becoming a disturbing study in lassitude in the executive branch.

A new Cornerite, Mario Loyola, is even forced to the following concession:

I still think that given the alternatives — in 2000, the disturbingly insincere and megalomaniac Al Gore; and in 2004, the sincerely pompous and foolish John Kerry—Bush was by far the better choice. But in the end, in these horribly difficult times, America needed a leader of real greatness ...

Well, yes and no. In 2004, we knew Bush was a failure. Hence my decision to give someone else a chance. On September 12, 2001, I wrote in this space:

The only question is whether we will get the leadership now to deal with this or whether we will have to endure even worse atrocities before a real leader emerges.

For well over a year after that, I did all I could to give this president the benefit of every doubt, until, in the weeks afer the Iraq invasion and the torture revelations, it became impossible to continue to do so. Four years later, I think we now all sadly know the answer to the question of whether we had the right leader at the right time. The Iraq failure, I should add, does not mean surrender. It means a tactical retreat from a dreadful error in order to fight again. But not recognizing it as an irretrievable failure at this point is pure fantasy. In war, we cannot afford fantasy. We need strategy, based on a cold, hard empirical look at where we are. You think Churchill would have advised fighting on to retain Dunkirk? The choices are as Tom Friedman puts them today:

10 months or 10 years. Either we just get out of Iraq in a phased withdrawal over 10 months, and try to stabilize it some other way, or we accept the fact that the only way it will not be a failed state is if we start over and rebuild it from the ground up, which would take 10 years. This would require reinvading Iraq, with at least 150,000 more troops, crushing the Sunni and Shiite militias, controlling borders, and building Iraq’s institutions and political culture from scratch.

Given our military constraints, the message of the last election, and the inadequacy of presidential leadership, I'm compelled to say: 10 months.

(Photo: Hadi Mizban/AP.)

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