Maureen Dowd: "Goodness, Gracious! The Truth!"

Read it all here but a healthy nibble follows:

First Junior took over the house with grandiose plans to remodel it and make it the envy of the neighborhood. But then he played with matches and set the house on fire. So now he’s frantically trying to stop the flames from torching the whole block.

The Bush administration has gone from a breathless plan to change the Middle East to a breathless plan to preserve it, from democracy promotion to conflagration avoidance.

That was the cold shower offered yesterday by Robert Gates, the former C.I.A. chief, on his way to being unanimously endorsed as the new defense secretary by a Senate panel craving a cold shower.He told the Armed Services Committee, peppered with wannabe future presidents, that the American occupation could lead to a Baghdad as hostile as Tehran, and set off “a regional conflagration” if Iraq is not deftly handled in the next couple of years.

Mr. Gates asserted that if America left Iraq in chaos, Iran and Syria could encroach more, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia might jump in to stop the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis by Shiites. “We’re already seeing Hezbollah involved in training fighters for Iraq,” he said. “I think all of that could spread fairly dramatically.”

It was the sort of realistic assessment that never came from Rummy, except when he privately admitted in a classified Nov. 6 memo that their Iraq strategy was “not working well enough or fast enough,” offering a silly hodgepodge of wildly tardy or dubious options, like telling the Iraqis to “pull up their socks.”

It was chilling to see in print that the man who spent nearly four years overseeing the war did not have any idea what to do in Iraq; his basic plan was not so much to fix the problem as to lower expectations. The memo, reported by Michael Gordon in The Times on Sunday, offered the following lame-brained prescriptions to manage perception:
    “Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”
And this:
    “Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist.”
So with the Pentagon deciding whether to Go Big, Go Long or Go Home, Rummy urged the White House to Go Minimalist and simply streamline the spin...
Read the rest.