NY Times extract: 'No one wants to tell the bitter truth'

This is an edited extract from an editorial in yesterday's 'New York Times'
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No matter what President Bush says, the question is not whether America can win in Iraq. The only question is whether the United States can extricate itself without leaving behind an unending civil war that will spread more chaos and suffering throughout the Middle East, while spawning terrorism across the globe...

It is very clear that even with the best American efforts, Iraq will remain at war with itself for years to come, its government weak and deeply divided, and its economy battered and still dependent on outside aid. The most the United States can do now is to try to build up Iraq's security forces so they can contain the fighting... and give Iraq's leaders a start toward the political framework they would need if they chose to try to keep their country whole.

The tragedy is that even this marginal sort of outcome seems nearly unachievable now... At this point, all plans to avoid disaster involve the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. In America, almost no one - even the administration's harshest critics - wants to tell people the bitter truth about how few options remain on the table, and about the mayhem that will almost certainly follow an American withdrawal unless more is done...

Right now, the best place to express bitterness about what may become the worst foreign policy debacle in American history is at the polls. But anger at a president is not a plan for what happens next.

When it comes to Iraq, the choices in the immediate future are scant and ugly. But there are still a few options to pursue, and the alternatives are so horrible that it is worth trying once again - as long as everyone understands that there is little time left and the odds are very long.

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