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Cutting and Running

Democrats in the Senate tried to flex their muscles this week by capitalizing on popular dislike of the war in Iraq to call for a scheduled American troop withdrawal. What they got instead was a reminder of their own fecklessness as they split their ranks between competing resolutions that Republicans gleefully described as “cut and run” vs. “cut and jog.”

The outcome was a clear public relations victory for the Bush administration and its supporters — whose own Iraq strategy might best be characterized as “writhe and drown.”

The Republicans’ sleight of hand is impressive. Having dragged the nation into an unwinnable quagmire in a war that had no legitimate rationale and holds no prospect of any dignified exit, they now taunt the opposition for lacking a clear alternative. If Democrats concede the Republicans’ current strategy of staying the course, they are acquiescing in the ever-deepening fiasco the administration has created. If they state the obvious, that we have been placed on the road to ruin, they are somehow calling for America’s defeat. If they try to find a middle path, to seek a careful exit that does the least damage, they appear waffling and indecisive.

America’s situation in Iraq is a devil’s brew, entirely of the administration’s making. If we stay, our very presence continues to foster resentment and instability, and Iraq continues to loom as a rallying point for global jihad. If we leave, we invite a regional conflagration. No scenario promises anything but disaster, save a massive international mobilization of the sort that our nation no longer has the credibility to invite.

In a situation like this, there’s not much to be gained from trying to sound positive or constructive. They might be better off merely stating the facts of our current situation and reminding the public of what America was like when grown-ups were in charge.

Sound negative? Hey, it worked for the GOP in the 1990s.

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