Stay the Course? Or Cut and Run?
Jude Wanniski
April 12, 2004


Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: An Honorable Option

Most of the talk on the Sunday talk shows, you may have noticed, was about the new round of fire-fighting in Iraq. Instead of the steady improvement the Pentagon has been promising for the last year, the violence is now escalating, with militiamen engaging Coalition troops in the kind of house-to-house urban warfare that has sharply increased the number of U.S. casualties. There now seems to be an almost universal opinion that if the Bush administration does not change policy on its political track toward the United Nations and NATO, it will have to continue going it alone. This means a fresh infusion of troops which are not readily available. The promise that Iraqi security forces would be able to take up the slack as they graduate from training schools has been withering with reports that they are refusing to take on the insurgents. There are reports some are selling their guns and flak jackets to the militiamen. The added difficulty is that Sunnis and Shiites appear to have put aside religious differences and are making common cause against anything “American.”

On Chris Matthews’ Sunday show on NBC, I noted with interest that CNN’s Tucker Carlson, a regular panelist, was willing to share his finding of recent days that there are now “senior” Republicans inside the Beltway who are for the first time talking about pulling out, the “cut-and-run option,” but “with honor,” said Carlson. To which Matthews added, “or without.”

The only honorable option I see is the one being advanced by Democrats, including Senator Kerry, the putative Democratic presidential nominee. The only way to get the burden off the USA is to shift it to the United Nations in general and the UN Security Council in particular. This does not mean making the UN the peacekeepers, with blue helmets taking on insurgents in house-to-house urban fighting. It means acceptance of a road map that the genuine political leaders of Iraq can see will not involve a government in Baghdad that is a puppet of the American neo-conservatives who cooked up the war to begin with.

At the top of the heap, of course, is Richard Perle, who was on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopolous yesterday, insisting that with a little more patience the friends he placed on the Iraqi Governing Council will sort everything out. It remains Perle’s fondest dream that Baghdad will serve as an imperial outpost of the American Empire in the Middle East. As it becomes clearer to his followers that Perle is trying to whistle his way through this graveyard, there is now a fracturing of the Cabal becoming evident. ABC’s George Will, who has been on Perle’s string for years, wound up challenging him on the show yesterday. Will can see the quagmire will only deepen unless President Bush throws in the towel on the Perle/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld/Kristol strategy the President embraced well before 9-11, even before his election.

On “Face the Nation,” Sen. Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on Foreign Relations, said French President Jacques Chirac had told him in recent days that France would only become involved in Iraq if Washington turned political authority over to the Security Council, of which the United States is one of five veto-wielding members. Chairman Pat Roberts of Senate Intelligence, a Kansas Republican, was clearly surprised by the report from Biden and also clearly interested. This would of course be an ignominious defeat for the Perle Cabal and the neo-cons and they will fight it to the last gasp. But it would be an even greater political gamble for Mr. Bush to stay this go-it-alone course than the one he took when he ordered the pre-emptive war last March. As fast as he is spending the millions of dollars he has raised for his re-election campaign by attacking Kerry in TV spots, The President is falling further behind in the match-ups with Kerry in the public opinion polls.

Nor was Mr. Bush helped by Condoleezza Rice’s appearance before the 9-11 Commission last week. She held her own in joustings with commission Democrats, but the upshot was the White House being forced to finally declassify the intelligence report that went to the President just prior to 9-11 warning of the threat to the US homeland from Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s sleeper cells in the U.S. The most damaging film clip for Mr. Bush showed him on a golf cart the day after he received this warning telling newsmen he was bound and determined to get rid of Saddam Hussein, with no mention at all of Al Qaeda.

The only good option the President has now, it appears, is not to “stay the course” or “cut-and-run,” but to share power with the United Nations as he should have last year when war could have been avoided. It would be a retreat, but at least not a dishonorable one.