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The Council on Foreign Relations has two senior fellows on staff who wrote an editorial for The Washington Post Sunday which says we've lost the war in Iraq already, and here's how to manage the loss.

Steven Simon and Ray Takeyh start with the notion that the problem with Iraq for American policymakers is that the war was lost a while ago, and it's taking us some time to catch up with reality.

If that were not breathtaking enough, they offer some prescriptions for better international relations in the future as a result of our loss in Iraq. They offer advice like "contain Iran."

Well excuse me, gents, but that is not exactly a bit of advice that will make headlines. We've been trying to contain Iran for years, and, obviously, especially since we've been in Iraq.

Second bit of advice: tamp down Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I'm telling you, these guys are blazing trails here. Who knew the Palestinians difficulties with the Israelis and vice versa were causing problems in the neighborhood? This is going to wake some people up.

Last item of advice: "Return to realism." And here's the entire quotation in full:

"The U.S. defeat in Iraq should finally squelch the appealing but naive belief that promoting democracy is a panacea for the Middle East's ills. Washington faces a bleak choice: it can push its values or realize its interests. It can't have both."

This is the line pushed by Brent Scowcroft and James Baker in the pre-George W. Bush era. It has its obvious persuasive points. We deal with the Saudis because of the oil, not the enlightened Constitution.

Still, do the Council on Foreign Relations authors suggest we change "all men are created equal" to everybody but people who live in the Middle East were created equal, and because they weren't they have to live under despots supported by U.S. tax dollars?

I think the jury is still out on whether we've won or lost in Iraq. The thing I don't like about the advice from the Council on Foreign Relations is that at the core of it there's always the whisper: Don't even try.

What also is at the bottom of this advice is the idea that if we just pick our favorite despots, they will keep the people who want to kill us down for us. That seems to have been a misguided policy in many places, and it hardly seems to be the lesson to take from Iraq.

That's My Word.

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