IN OTHER WORDS: Onus on Democrats

The Democrats will not be able to savour their victory for long. Criticising President Bush’s gross mismanagement of the war was a winning electoral strategy. But criticism will not extricate the US from this mess.

The responsibility for all that has gone wrong lies squarely with Bush. And while we too are eager to hear the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, it should be the start, and not the end, of a bipartisan discussion on Iraq strategy.

Unless America’s exit plans are coupled with a more serious effort to build up Iraq’s security forces and mediate its sectarian divisions, a phased withdrawal will only hasten Iraq’s descent into civil war. We also fear that Iraqis will have no interest in anything but retribution, until they see that security and rebuilding are possible. For that reason we have suggested one last push to stabilise Baghdad. That would require at least a temporary increase in American and Iraqi troops on Baghdad streets.

We are skeptical of calls, by some Democrats, to divide the country into three ethnically based regions. But we are sure that even a few weeks more of drift and confusion will guarantee more chaos and suffering once American troops leave. Voters gave the Democrats the floor — and are now waiting to hear what they have to say.