Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) penned an important op ed in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section calling on President Bush to fashion an exit strategy from Iraq.
Hagel's candor is refreshing, but I have come to expect this from Hagel. Equally impressive is his brevity. He manages to say in a short 739 words what so few of his fellow senators have been willing or able to articulate in twice or three times as many: "The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq."
The gist of the editorial explains that we must exit Iraq because it is in our interest to do so. He notes the "devastating" costs "in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing." He points out that "We are destroying our force structure, which took 30 years to build." This cost to our military -- and therefore to our national security -- cannot be quantified. Neither can the cost in lives. But this much we do know: in dollar terms alone, war costs now exceed $300 billion, and are accumulating at a rate of $8 billion per month.
As to Hagel's pragmatic understanding of the limitations of military force to achieve noble ends, the following passages are instructive:
Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.
We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans.
Well said, Senator Hagel. Here's hoping that some of your fellow senators took time off from leftover turkey and stuffing to read the newspaper.