ON THE GROUND IN IRAQ….It’s a little embarrassing that I have to rely on a guy in Hong Kong for a link to an LA Times article, but that’s globalization for you. Here’s the lead:

U.S. forces have stepped back from massive military action in the turbulent cities of Fallouja and Najaf, but the overwhelming sense here is that across much of Iraq, the ground is giving way beneath the Americans.

A culture of impunity has taken hold in Iraq. There are few limits to who can be taken hostage or how a hostage might be killed. In this environment, virtually any level of violence is acceptable if it is aimed at the occupation.

Compare that to this from the Christian Science Monitor’s blog:

Sitting with a group of friends here a few nights ago, I realized how blas? we’d become about the new conditions. None of us had eaten out in the evening for at least a month. We agreed that the two-hour drive south to Najaf had become too dangerous to attempt. The journalists among us agreed that our work increasingly relied on phone calls to Iraqis on the scene, rather than real reportage of what we could see and touch. And everyone nodded knowingly when two NGO workers said they’d be leaving the country because it has become too dangerous to conduct their reconstruction work here.

In essence, I feel we’ve become boiled frogs….

I won’t pretend that I’m anything but hugely conflicted about what we should do in Iraq now that it’s come down to this, but I sure wish we had an administration that did more than just intone “stay the course” and then refuse to propose anything even remotely credible for turning the situation around. Almost anything would be better than just doing what we’re doing now.