December 14th, 2005


(no subject)

"In the last hour President Bush gave the fourth in a series of speeches on Iraq, this one at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars here in Washington. It was a summation of the other speeches in this series; I saw nothing really new in it, but it struck me as a well-constructed speech, perhaps the best statement yet of the administration's current position

"We've got lots of questions related to Iraq, so let me get to them with minimal delay. I'll just make one point at the outset - I'll probably be coming back to this during the chat, because I think it's the most important point to try to keep in mind. The fundamental American dilemma in Iraq now, I think, is that the success of our mission is out of American hands. U.S. soldiers, diplomats and construction engineers cannot produce the 'complete victory' that President Bush reiterated today is his goal. Only Iraqis can do that. Democracy in Iraq, stability in Iraq, peace and prosperity in Iraq must all be created by the Iraqis themselves - Americans can't produce any of them. In this respect there is a meaningful parallel between the Vietnam war, which I covered for The Post 35 years ago, and this one. Ultimately, we could not create a viable South Vietnamese government to defend its own independence; in the end, the South Vietnamese couldn't do that either.

"There is no North Vietnam in Iraq, a huge advantage. But the essential challenge remains: Can Iraqis turn their damaged and divided land into a prosperous, democratic nation? Our war aims are huge: to create a bastion for freedom in a region where democracy is still essentially unknown. Can the Shia, Sunni and Kurds of Iraq, who have no established democratic institutions and no history of democratic governance, overcome their mutual hostilities and suspicions to create a model democracy for the Middle East? If they cannot, it seems to me, then the U.S. will have to accept something considerably less than 'complete victory.'"

-Robert G. Kaiser

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