First of all, let me make it clear that I believe the U.S. objective in Iraq should be peace and that peace will come from negotiations—not military victory or unilateral withdrawal. As President Kennedy said in his inaugural, "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." In
Yesterday, Bush took a step in that direction. Democrats who, in their rush to court public opinion, have ill-advisedly chosen to advocate withdrawal over negotiations—are at risk of paying a heavy price.
To be sure, the strategy outlined yesterday in both Bush's speech  and the 35-page "National Strategy For Victory In Iraq,  " is not in any way a full-fledged course correction for Bush. Bush's speech yesterday could merely be lipstick on a pig. Nevertheless, two major elements of yesterday's revelations are striking for their movement toward a more reality-based policy in
First, in both the strategy paper and the speech, Bush distinguished between the elements of the insurgency. Bush's convention has been to lump all insurgents into the category of terrorists. Now he says there are three groups: "rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists." He also makes it clear that
We judge that over time many in this group will increasingly support a democratic
provided that the federal government protects minority rights and the legitimate interests of all communities. Iraq
That, my friends, is a major dose of reality for this president. Even though it is not sufficient, it is heading in a direction that could lead to an embrace of a negotiated deal.
Second, by putting a strategy on paper, Bush has managed to close the yawning gap between his rhetoric and his generals. As John Burns and Dexter Filkins wrote in today's NYT  , "for the first time in the two years since the conflict here turned brutal, the war Mr. Bush described sounded much like the one his generals grapple with every day." Again, it's not a strategy that has much chance of working, but it is a strategy that is back in the ballpark.
Rep. John Murtha's call for withdrawal, diplomacy and redeployment two weeks ago was effective precisely because of the gap that had opened up between the uniformed military and the civilians surrounding Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Indeed, an unprecedented meeting of U.S. battalion commanders  and Sen. John Warner immediately preceded Murtha's announcement. Obviously, Murtha's move has had a major effect.
Finally, the political rhetoric and the military strategy may not be just for show. Bob Dreyfuss, writing here in TomPaine.com  , reports behavior that seems to show a real connection between strategy and operational decisions:
...The Association of Muslim Scholars, a pro-Baath organization in
, asked the Arab League’s Amr Moussa to intervene with Talabani to halt a planned military offensive against the insurgents just two weeks before the Dec. 15 elections. Moussa did so , Talabani agreed, and the offensive was called off. Then Talabani started talking about meeting with resistance leaders. On the Shiite side, Abdel Aziz Hakim, in a chilling interview with The Washington Post  , went so far as to blast the Americans for holding back a Shiite-led offensive against the resistance. Iraq
Bush may have taken two real steps back towards reality but it is still far from sufficient. Today's announcement from the Kurds that they have unilaterally contracted with a Norwegian oil prospecting firm —and have started drilling—will surely drive the wedge between Bush's Kurdish-Shi'a alliance deeper. Without a clear sign that he is ready to back the Cairo Process, Bush's newly released strategy will not be able to hold the centrifugal Iraqi forces together much longer. In other words, Bush is still moving headlong toward civil war.
And yet Democrats have just lost some major leverage. The yawning gulf between Bush and his generals has been, if we are to believe John Burns, somewhat closed. This represents a real but temporary setback for Democrats.
That's because as long as the