Some readers have suggested that Harry Reid's openness
to sending more troops to Iraq is a clever political move. I don't see it, and that circle gets harder to square when considered along with Colin Powell's remarks
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said today that the United States is losing what he described as a "civil war" in Iraq and that he is not persuaded that an increase in U.S. troops there would reverse the situation. Instead, he called for a new strategy that would relinquish responsibility for Iraqi security to the government in Baghdad sooner rather than later, with a U.S. drawdown to begin by the middle of next year.
Powell's comments broke his long public silence on the issue and placed him at odds with the administration. . . .
Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Powell seemed to draw as much from his 35-year Army career, including four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as from his more recent difficult tenure as Bush's chief diplomat.
Last summer's surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad had failed, he said, and any new attempt was unlikely to succeed. "If somebody proposes that additional troops be sent, if I was still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question . . . is what mission is it these troops are supposed to accomplish . . . is it something that is really accomplishable . . . do we have enough troops to accomplish it?"
In what struck me as really odd coming from Mark Shields, he called Don Rumsfeld a tragic figure
on the Newshour
Friday. Not so, in any sense really. But Powell is truly a tragic figure. The great tragedy of Iraq (in the traditional meaning
of the term) is that an entire generation of military men--who were hardened in the crucible of Vietnam as young officers and spent most of their careers building the all-volunteer armed services and warning against repeating the strategic mistakes embodied by that terrible conflict--in the end, at the apex of their careers, made the same mistakes they had spent their professional lives studying and warning against. The fact that their civilian leaders had sat out Vietnam (or in Rumsfeld's case was a half a generation older) only makes the tragedy more compelling.
Despite his grave mistakes as secretary of state, Powell is worth listening to on this.