Sunday, December 03, 2006

First Sunday of Advent-2006


The emerging plan by the Iraq Study Group tries to find a middle road between President Bush's adamant refusal to leave Iraq until the job is done and Democratic demands to pull out U.S. troops. But in achieving unanimity among its Republican and Democratic members, the commission has outlined a strategy with its own political and military risks.

If they choose, leaders in both parties could embrace the plan in the interest of putting aside the polarizing differences of the past three years. This post-election moment, many say, presents the best and perhaps last chance for consensus. And some military experts say the commission's plan to pull out combat units by early 2008 and shift remaining troops into a supporting role may be a logical response to the sectarian violence.

But there are already signs of discord over the plan, as Bush on one side and the fiercest war opponents on the other stake out positions suggesting they may not come together after all. Some military and diplomatic veterans warn that the commission's plan may not be the magic solution so many hope for. It could, they say, even open the door to a broader and ever more brutal civil war between radical Shiite and Sunni forces competing for power in the resulting vacuum.


Some say it is too late for the United States to determine the outcome of the war in Iraq either way. "For all the excitement in Washington, this will be decided on the ground in Baghdad," said Richard C. Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who brokered the Dayton peace accords, which ended the Bosnian war in the 1990s. "The United States has lost its capacity to shape the events on the ground, regardless of what's recommended by the commission, regardless of what's done by the U.S. military and the president."

“In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”

Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course, he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.

“Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”

“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. The memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics.

Above the clamor of our violence
your word of truth resounds,
O God of majesty and power.
Over nations enshrouded in despair
your justice dawns.
Grant your household
a discerning spirit and a watchful eye
to perceive the hour in which we live.
Hasten the advent of that day
when the weapons of war shall be banished,
our deeds of darkness cast off,
and all your scattered children gathered into one.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near:
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer, First Sunday of Advent

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