Hope is Still the Plan

| Tue May. 23, 2006 1:14 PM PDT

Newsweek's Michael Hirsh is trying to figure out what the Bush administration is planning to do about Iraq. Best of luck to him. I gave up this game long ago, mainly because the administration doesn't even seem to have a plan, apart from muddling through and perpetually hoping that in six months time, things will get magically better. And that still seems to be the case:

So the very best that can be hoped for in Iraq, probably for many years to come, will be a non-bloodbath, a low-level civil war that doesn't get worse than the current cycle of insurgent killings and Shiite death-squad reprisals. This is bad, but it could be much worse. Containment, says one Army officer involved in training in Iraq, is at least "doable." He adds: "The only real question is: How do we keep Iraq from becoming a permissive environment for terrorists."
People will keep killing each other, sure, but at least it won't be some unspecified really large number of people killing each other. That's the plan. Although there still seem to be some technical problems:
The U.S. military is already gearing up for this outcome, but not for "victory" any longer. It is consolidating to several "superbases" in hopes that its continued presence will prevent Iraq from succumbing to full-flown civil war and turning into a failed state. Pentagon strategists admit they have not figured out how to move to superbases, as a way of reducing the pressure—and casualties—inflicted on the U.S. Army, while at the same time remaining embedded with Iraqi police and military units. It is a circle no one has squared.
Er, perhaps that's because it can't be done? It seems awfully hard for the military to stay out of the way and avoiding getting its soldiers killed and continue trying to influence events on the ground in Iraq. Pentagon strategists seem to agree. Really, no one seems to know what to do anymore. On the bright side, Ralph Peters says that this year more Americans will die in highway accidents than get killed in Iraq so I guess we can all clap our hands now...

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