Holbrooke on Iraq

HOLBROOKE ON IRAQ….I’m still catching up with stuff from last week, and one of the things that struck me was Suzanne Nossel and Michael Signer’s report that Richard Holbrooke is seriously gloomy about our prospects in Iraq. First Suzanne:

He and our own Mort Halperin now agree that Iraq is worse than Vietnam both in its consequences and the policy challenge posed by the need to extricate. Neither thought they would ever say that about any foreign policy quandary. It’s astonishing that with 1000 days left Bush is already saying he plans to hand this to his successor ? its a guaranteed 2000+ more casualties. Plus our international standing will only continue to wane.

Administration’s dilemma is whether to draw down troops for political reasons or increase troops for strategic reasons….If Bush buck-passes as is his stated intent, it now looks like the 2008 election may be a referendum on Iraq. In office, a new president will have to end the war to have a hope of reelection in 2012.

And Michael:

Holbrooke intoned all of this as if he were reciting a dirge. Ominous is far too light of a word, and if he was only pessimistic he might as well have been dancing. Holbrooke seemed haunted and depressed by the darkness of a vision, and unquestionably convinced of the central premise of his vision ? that Iraq is “worse than Vietnam.”

I’m pretty gloomy these days too. A year ago, I thought (or maybe just hoped) that a milestone-related withdrawal plan might improve Iraq’s chances of avoiding complete chaos. Today I can’t even convince myself of that little. If we leave now, full-blown civil war seems inevitable, but if we stay, full-blown civil war also seems inevitable ? except with the U.S. Army stuck in the middle. And that’s long been my biggest worry.

Maybe I’ll feel more upbeat tomorrow. But I doubt it. I think Holbrooke is right.