It would have been no problem for America's military to reach Baghdad, he said. The problems would have arisen when the Army entered the Iraqi capital. "At the minimum, we'd be an occupier in a hostile land," he said. "Our forces would be sniped at by guerrillas, and, once we were there, how would we get out? What would be the rationale for leaving? I don't like the term 'exit strategy' -- but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?"Huh. Sounds like what a lot of people on the left were saying in 2002 and 2003. Of course, back then, the President just dismissed the people saying that, even when they were protesting in the streets, with little quips that he doesn't listen to opinion polls.
Being right is nice. There's no denying that. And I respect Scowcroft for holding his "told you so" for this long. He gave a warning before the war, and has been silent since then. I'm certainly not crowing about my foresight either. It was obvious to anyone paying attention that we would be able to invade successfully, that there was no nuclear program, and that maintaining the country would be a disaster in slow motion.
Any doubt that things are not improving in Iraq should be dispelled by a poll recently commissioned by the military. While the findings about support for attacks against the military will be the headline for most people, I'm more interested in the finding that "less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security." If people don't feel any safer, what the hell have we been doing there?
And this brings us back to exit strategy. If we can't leave until it's safer, and people don't feel safer, where does that leave us?
I still think Juan Cole's plan for withdrawal (previously discussed here) makes sense. Forget trying to recreate Iraq, forget whatever dreams the neo-cons had for proving our ability to re-form whole nations.
But that would mean admitting a mistake, listening to experts, and maybe even listening to public opinion. And this Bush administration doesn't make policy that way.