Friday, June 15, 2007

Candidates must outline long-term Iraq policies

Democratic and Republican presidential candidates continue to stiff the American public by not givin

Florida Today is a daily newspaper based in Melbourne, Fla.


Via The Associated Press

One thing certain about the Iraq war is that more blood will be spilled as failure is compounded by more failure.

That was seen with grim clarity again last week when Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, picked by President Bush to serve as the White House's new war czar, told Congress in confirmation hearings that the troop surge isn't working. And that more violence can be expected to rage over the next year.

As stated by Bush, the surge's goal was to stem the bloodshed and give the Iraqi government breathing room to start reconciling its deep Shiite-Sunni-Kurd divisions in several key ways. But Lute said the Iraqis have shown "very little progress" toward the political healing necessary to slow the slaughter, and if that doesn't change, "we're not likely to see much difference in the security situation" a year from now.

Meanwhile, the war's futility reached another tragic milestone on Main Street, USA: More than 3,500 American troops have now been killed, with the surge causing the rising death toll. Nearly 26,000 have been wounded.

Against this backdrop, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates continue to stiff the American public by not giving them the straight answers needed about how to address the long-term ramifications of this disaster.

The Democrats are calling for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, which makes sense and which a solid majority of Americans back, while Republicans just keep parroting "stay the course."

But none of the candidates are looking beyond sound bites to the immensely difficult task of trying to stabilize the region and rebuild U.S. respect and credibility in the Middle East in the post-Bush era. That must include serious talks with Syria and Iran, whose major influence in Iraq and the region can no longer be ignored, and an honest recognition that only Iraqis can determine their own fate, no matter how painful the process.

An intelligent plan to accomplish that was drawn up in January by the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton study group. The White House promptly ignored the plan in favor of the now failing surge, guaranteeing no change in policy while Bush is in office. That puts the enormous responsibility of charting the future in the hands of the candidates, all of whom are so far failing the test.

For the good of the nation­¾and Iraq and the Middle East¾that must change immediately with candid talk about what really lies ahead.

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