By Simon Jenkins
"The American and British armies do not have to withdraw from Iraq. They are powerful and can stay as long as they wish, even if entombed like French legionnaires in desert forts and sustained at great cost in lives and money.
Their governments are a different matter. They need reasons for occupying foreign countries and now face humiliation in the greatest war of ideological intervention since Vietnam. They are praying for their armies to save them from this humiliation.
This week David Petraeus, the talented American general in Baghdad, reports on the progress of his “surge” strategy to an impatient Congress. Two thirds of Americans have joined two thirds of world opinion in wanting a swift American withdrawal, defined as inside a year. Petraeus’s predicament is therefore agonising. He cannot possibly offer victory. He can offer only defeat or a desperate clinging on, as now. For George Bush, his commander-in-chief, only the last is imaginable. Petraeus must therefore forget about a better yesterday or a better tomorrow, and concentrate on today......
Iraq has been a disaster, an illegal act crassly perpetrated by supposedly honourable powers. It shows what happens when crackpot idealism breaks from the realm of think tanks and journalism and penetrates the body politic. It validates the remark of the philosopher John Gray that “modern politics is really a chapter in the history of religion”.
Last month the British began fumbling their way towards an escape from this disaster. The danger for Petraeus is that he digs a deeper hole. "