But naturally there have been a few holdouts. And perhaps none is more prominent than Charles Krauthammer. As far as I can tell, he has stood relatively alone as a very, very influential conservative voice who has not budged even an inch on his commitment to Dubya's folly.
But now even Krauthammer is getting ready to jump ship. In my opinion, this is a significant milestone that's going relatively unnoticed (aside from here, about 5 paragraphs down).
Let's look at today's column from Krauthammer, titled "Iraq: A Civil War We Can Still Win."
Of course it is.
Of course he then says:
whether the phrase "civil war" is to be used is irrelevant
Fine. Whatever. Then please explain why Bush has avoided that term like the plague. But the important thing is that you finally admit it's a civil war.
Krauthammer's other key shift, perhaps even more important, is that he essentially admits the war may be "unwinnable." In my opinion, this is very significant because "unwinnable" is another central rhetorical issue. Bush's message is that the war is absolutely winnable, as long as we "stay the course." (Of course Bush also hints that winning will takes years or decades.)
Krauthammer is putting a significant distance between himself and Bush, by admitting the war may be "unwinnable." He admits this by asking the following question, a question Bush supporters are never, ever supposed to ask:
can we still win ... ?
Krauthammer has announced that it's a "civil war," and it might be "unwinnable." All that's left for him to do, in typical GOP fashion, is find scapegoats. If we lose, who do we blame? According to Krauthammer, we blame the Iraqis, and Maliki. According to Krauthammer:
[whether we win or lose] depends on whether the government of ... Maliki can face up to its two potentially mortal threats: the Sunni insurgency and the challenge from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Krauthammer goes on to explain that Maliki should make deals with the Sunnis and Sadr. But Krauthammer explains that these "deals and alliances" will require "a Maliki government decisively willing to deal with the Sunnis and take on Sadr."
"Decisively" is a code word for carrying a big stick: Maliki "needs to demonstrate the will to use [the Iraqi armed forces]." In other words, if we lose, it will be because Maliki failed to use force to confront not just the Sunnis but also his backer Sadr:
without a central Iraqi government willing to act in its own self-defense, this war will be unwinnable
Of course, that sentence, at the very end of the column, says it all. If we lose, it's because Maliki's government wasn't "willing to act in its own self-defense."
What's interesting is that Krauthammer might be right about all sorts of things. He's probably right to suggest that Maliki needs to be willing to use force to confront Sadr. He's probably right to suggest that Maliki should make various deals with the Sunnis.
There's nothing remarkable about anyone, including Krauthammer, making such suggestions. What's remarkable is that Krauthammer has reached the point where all he can do is construct alibis. He's simply using those suggestions as a framework for an alibi. Krauthammer probably realizes that these things (what he claims Maliki needs to do) probably won't happen. In fact, Krauthammer is probably counting on them to not happen.
So that's the real importance of his column. He's telling us the alibi we'll be hearing, once Bush can no longer deny that the war is lost. Here's the alibi: in the end, the war was lost because Maliki didn't do the right thing.
It's a major milestone that a powerful voice like Krauthammer has reached the point of floating such an alibi, in such a direct, explicit, unqualified manner.
Speaking of excuses, it's not enough to have an alibi for why the war was lost. Bush also needs an alibi for why we started the war, in the first place (and it's necessary to avoid the subject of WMD, because not only didn't we find any, but there's more and more proof that Bush lied about them). Krauthammer covers that, too. Here's his alibi: it's Kerry's fault. Really.
Here's how Krauthammer makes that argument. Krauthammer hints at the possibility that "the critics are right" and "we should ... have left Saddam Hussein in place," to begin with. So why didn't we do that? Because Kerry didn't tell us to:
That's the argument ["Iraq is not the center of the war on terror"] that should have been made -- that Kerry should have made -- four years ago, before he voted yes, before he voted no, before he voted yes on the war.
Amazing but true: the blame for starting the war lies with the Dems, because many of them actually believed Bush's lies about WMD, and therefore supported the war.
To review: we got into the war because Ds failed to prevent Bush from starting the war. And we lost the war because Maliki failed to do his job properly.
The right-wing noise machine works like a pyramid. Messages start at the top and filter down. Krauthammer is darn close to the very top of the pyramid. We now know what we will be hearing from righty bloggers in months, years and decades to come.