Two days ago Real Clear Politics featured Timothy Garton Ash's blistering analysis of where we are in Iraq:

"What an amazing bloody catastrophe. The Bush administration's policy towards the Middle East over the five years since 9/11 is culminating in a multiple train crash. Never in the field of human conflict was so little achieved by so great a country at such vast expense. In every vital area of the wider Middle East, American policy over the last five years has taken a bad situation and made it worse."

Sobering observations from a voice not unsympathetic to the United States and George Bush. You should read the full essay (linked here).

However, after you read the essay--and have given it serious consideration--come back in off the ledge. Things in Iraq are bad, but with a little luck we will avoid Armageddon. Just as the graveyards are filled with indispensable men, history is littered with impossible situations--but here we are. And we are likely to survive this troubling time as well.

George Bush is no worse off than Harry Truman was in December of 1950. After suffering humiliating losses at the hands of the Republicans in the midterm elections that fall, Truman woke up one morning in late November to the news that hundreds of thousands of Chinese had crossed the Yalu River and completely turned the tide of the Korean War. American forces were in full retreat. The President's commanding general counseled that a wider war was the only option, and he seemed intent on not taking "no" for an answer. On the other hand, the joint chiefs warned that a wider war in Asia was unwinable. The President faced a cataclysmic crisis in which there were no good answers; moreover, the entire post-war strategy of containment and commitment to fighting communist aggression hung in the balance.

Truman did not find a way to win the war in Korea. He could do no better than a bloody two-year stalemate that cost more than 30,000 American lives and a swath of destruction and despair for the residents of the Korean peninsula. In the end, Truman could not even find a path out of Korea (he would leave that to a Republican administration swept into the Oval Office in 1952). More than fifty years later, Korea is still a festering sore.

There are some, undoubtedly, who would say that Truman erred in not following the advice of Douglas MacArthur and taking on the Chinese and Soviets in one final horrific battle between good and evil.

I am of the opinion that Truman did the right thing. He hung tough. He did not panic. He spent the next two years "suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," as well as dealing with the consequences of his own decisions that had turned sour.

Truman played it tough but safe. He did not bet it all. He took the long view, understanding (maybe hoping is more accurate) that the American system, over time, would win the all-important bipolar contest of ideologies.

We must hang tough--but we need not be reckless. We are embarked in an extremely long-term battle of ideologies. The race is not always to the swiftest--but to the one who endures. We must endure.