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Memories of the first Iraq war, when George H.W. Bush was president, may have stoked false hope for the second war initiated by his son, the current President Bush. The first war, which liberated Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion, lasted a short while, and U.S. casualties were moderate, thanks to precision bombing and a Iraqi army that pretty much turned heel when the combat intensified.
So when the second Bush administration decided in 2003 that the time had come to call Saddam Hussein's bluff, the president repeatedly said this fight wasn't likely to be as expedient as the first. He said it might take years to restore stability to Iraq. Little did he know that insurgents would become so deadly a factor.
Nor did anyone else foresee the extent to which a well-armed, well-organized and well-hidden force of suicide bombers and makers of improvised explosive devices would attempt to maintain chaos -- a situation suitably appropriate for preventing the implementation of legitimate government processes.
When the president said last week in a news conference that U.S. troops would likely still be in Iraq after his presidency ended, opponents of the war -- including most Democrats in Washington -- renewed their criticism of the conflict.
While some opponents have demanded an outright and abrupt withdrawal from Iraq, most war opponents have little to offer in the way of an alternative. That is a significant point that will become a bigger issue as national elections draw nearer. Secretary of State Rice indicated over the weekend that a "significant drawdown" of U.S. troop levels is "probable" over the next 12 months.
Without a plan of their own for the future of Iraq, Democrats are likely to put their hopes for election gains on what they expect will became a groundswell of American anti-war sentiment. But it would be far better to offer something concrete. Even Democrats in Washington understand the potential specter of Mideast chaos that could result from abandoning Iraqis who seek a stable government.