No Ponies Left

NO PONIES LEFT….I had the same problem with David Ignatius’s column today as Matt Yglesias did, but I also had another one. Basically, Ignatius wants Democrats to figure out how to salvage things in Iraq:

Many Democrats act as if that’s the end of the discussion: A mismanaged occupation has created a breeding ground for terrorists, so we should withdraw and let the Iraqis sort out the mess….But with a few notable exceptions, the Democrats are mostly ducking the hard question of what to do next….Unfortunately, as bad as things are, they could get considerably worse.

….The Democrats understandably want to treat Iraq as George Bush’s war and wash their hands of it. But the damage of Iraq can be mitigated only if it again becomes the nation’s war ? with the whole country invested in finding a way out of the morass that doesn’t leave us permanently in greater peril. If the Democrats could lead that kind of debate about security, they would become the nation’s governing party.

I agree that allowing Iraq to spiral into civil war would be a disaster, but it’s telling that Ignatius doesn’t propose a solution himself aside from a vague allusion to the possibility of federalism and partitioning ? an idea that’s been floating around liberal foreign policy circles for the past couple of years but has gone nowhere because it has no traction either among Republicans or among Iraqis themselves.

Look: A “debate” is fine, but only if there’s something to debate. Should we privatize Social Security? Let’s debate. Should we debate about how to fix Iraq? We could, but only if there were some plausible solutions to argue about. Unfortunately, there aren’t. We don’t have enough troops in Iraq to keep order and the troops we do have aren’t trained properly anyway. Nobody appears to have any serious desire to change that. Politically, the sectarian split in Iraq is embedded deeply in their history and culture and is mostly beyond our ability to affect, especially after three years of mismanagement. Globally, we have virtually no influence left with either local power brokers like Iran or with our European allies.

Various luminaries in the liberal foreign policy community have been proposing Iraq policies right and left for over three years now. Initially, that perhaps we should have kept our focus on Afghanistan and stayed out of Iraq altogether. Then, once we were there, liberal thinkers suggested more troops, dialogue with Iran, a multilateral council to accelerate regional investment in Iraq’s progress, a variety of counterinsurgency strategies, a variety of partition plans, more serious engagement in Israeli-Palestinian talks (Tony Blair practically begged for this), and on and on. Every single one of these suggestions was ignored.

Would they have made any difference? Who knows. But to blame Democrats now for not being aggressive enough in trying to trisect this angle is like blaming Gerald Ford for losing Vietnam. George Bush fought this war precisely the way he wanted, with precisely the troops he wanted, and with every single penny he asked for. He has kept Don Rumsfeld in charge despite abundant evidence that he doesn’t know how to win a war like this. He has mocked liberals and the media at every turn when they suggested we might need a different approach. The result has been a disaster with no evident solution left.

It’s one thing to ask for “debate,” but it’s quite another to ask for a pony that doesn’t exist anymore and to blame Democrats when they’re unable to produce yet another one after three years of trying. That makes no sense.