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Friedman: Administration Iraq policy "makes you sick"

For reasons I don't entirely understand, many on the left in this country have a real distaste for Thomas Friedman. Personally, I find his writing generally insightful and provocative. Yes, he's been wrong - like on invading Iraq. But then again, most of the country was wrong on that.

He's singing a different tune on Iraq now, as demonstrated in this NYT op-ed from Wednesday [TimesSelect]:

When you read stories in the newspapers every day about Americans who are going to Iraq for their third or even fourth tours and you think that this administration has never sent its best diplomats for even one tour yet — never made one, not one, single serious, big-time, big-tent diplomatic push to resolve this conflict, but instead has put everything on the military, it makes you sick. ... President Bush baffles me. If your whole legacy was riding on Iraq, what would you do? I'd draft the country's best negotiators — Henry Kissinger, Jim Baker, George Shultz, George Mitchell, Dennis Ross or Richard Holbrooke — and ask one or all of them to go to Baghdad, under a U.N. mandate, with the following orders:

"I want you to move to the Green Zone, meet with the Iraqi factions and do not come home until you've reached one of three conclusions: 1) You have resolved the power- and oil-sharing issues holding up political reconciliation; 2) you have concluded that those obstacles are insurmountable and have sold the Iraqis on a partition plan that could be presented to the U.N. and supervised by an international force; 3) you have concluded that Iraqis are incapable of agreeing on either political reconciliation or a partition plan and told them that, as a result, the U.S. has no choice but to re-deploy its troops to the border and let Iraqis sort this out on their own."

The last point is crucial. Any lawyer will tell you, if you're negotiating a contract and the other side thinks you'll never walk away, you've got no leverage. And in Iraq, we've never had any leverage. The Iraqis believe that Mr. Bush will never walk away, so they have no incentive to make painful compromises.

While the Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the Levin measure that would have all troops out of Iraq by April 2008, I don't think there'll be a repeat of that. There are too many smart voices out there saying things like the above, and the Republicans will soon start focusing on re-election instead of protecting their moronic president. Too bad countless more American soldiers will die in the meantime.



Regarding Friedman's last point: The irony here is that the Republicans, who have built an entire political movement on the abolition of the nanny state, have created a nanny nation in Iraq. Bush has vowed to stay in Iraq until the job is done. With a promise like that, what incentive do Iraqis have to achieve anything? To create an analogy using a long-time Republican gripe; this is like telling people on welfare that the governemnt will give them money until they get a job - why get a job when you can sit around and get free money?

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