While some fairies tell them the Iraq war isn’t really so bad, and worldwide protest articulates growing anger towards the quagmire, US officials – who, it must said, can’t be trusted – aren’t especially optimistic:
Three years ago, as they ordered more than 150,000 U.S. troops to race toward Baghdad, Bush administration officials confidently predicted that Iraq would quickly evolve into a prosperous, oil-fueled democracy. When those goals proved optimistic, they lowered their sights, focusing on a military campaign to defeat Sunni-led insurgents and elections to jump-start a new political order.
Now, as the conflict enters its fourth year, the Bush administration faces a new challenge: the prospect of civil war. And, in response, officials again appear to be redefining success downward.
If Iraq can avoid all-out civil war, they say, if Baghdad’s new security forces can hold together, if Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds all participate in a new unity government, that may be enough progress to allow the administration to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops in the country by the second half of this year.
In increasingly sober public statements – and in slightly more candid assessments from officials who insisted that they not be identified – the administration is working to lower expectations.
The hidden costs of the war, largely ignored by its strongest supporters, continue to bring anguish.