Price of Iraq

When Bush and Blair talked about progress in Iraq at a joint news conference last week, one thing was evident. The two world leaders who plotted the original invasion have, at least, come a long way in realising how many things have gone wrong. They seemed positively downbeat, even as they insisted that democratisation would make everything right in the end.

Iraq now does have a constitutional government, elected by the Iraqis themselves. But that will make no difference at all unless that government can provide all its citizens with basic order and security. Of all Bush’s arguments for the invasion, the only one that has survived exposure to reality is that Iraqis deserve something better than a brutal dictatorship. But right now the country appears on the way to a civil war among the armed groups. To avoid repeating a very bad history, the nation’s security forces must be brought under control by people who have both the will and the capacity to truly unite the nation.

It was somewhat reassuring that Bush and Blair have stopped trying to pretend that everything has gone just fine in Iraq. But it was very disturbing to hear them follow their expressions of regret with the same old “stay the course” fantasy. It’s time for Bush either to chart a course that can actually be followed, or admit that there is none. — The New York Times