IRAQ….Three stories today paint a very grim collective picture of Iraq. First, there’s the Newsweek article I mentioned earlier about the Pentagon’s aptly named “Salvador Option.” Maj. Gen. Muhammad Abdallah al-Shahwani, director of Iraq?s National Intelligence Service, describes it this way:

Shahwani…said that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, “are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them.”

….”The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,” he said. “From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”

In other words, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to terrorize the Sunni population ourselves. This may actually be true. In fact, I fear that it is true. But true or not, it’s unthinkable that we’re seriously considering this kind of barbarism as official policy. It’s a pretty clear sign that the Pentagon no longer thinks we have much chance of winning in Iraq.

Second, the New York Times reports that talk of “disengagement” is all the rage in Washington DC:

The rumblings about disengagement have grown distinctly louder as members of Congress return from their districts after the winter recess, and as military officers try to game out how Sunni Arabs and Shiites might react to the election results.

….all over Washington, there is talk about new ways to define when the mission is accomplished ? not to cut and run, but not to linger, either….For the first time, there are questions about whether it is politically possible to wait until the Iraqi forces are adequately trained before pressure to start bringing back American troops becomes overwhelming.

And finally, Andrew Sullivan quotes the prowar group Stratfor as having given up completely:

The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that didn’t happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is not likely to suppress the guerrillas.

Is there anybody left who still thinks we can win in Iraq? Anybody, that is, aside from George Bush, who apparently lives in a cocoon and refuses to allow bad news to pass through his doors? It sure doesn’t sound like it.

And yet the crew that’s responsible for this is going to remain in charge for four more years. Four very long years.