When you consider the lost time in the nation's struggle in Iraq, it is painful to read the recommendations in the Baker-Hamilton report (PDF) to Congress.
The blame for the refusal to face reality over this prolonged war rests squarely in the Oval Office. President Bush's stubbornness has led to this mess.
To be sure, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his longtime pal Vice President Cheney played a large role in this predicament. However, the president could have ignored their advice from time to time as the war dragged on. He didn't.
The vacant talk of "stay the course, victory, democracy" no longer has any meaning. Bush was blind to the reality that Iraq was slipping steadily into a religious and civil war. Our troops are now caught in the middle of a veritable shooting gallery.
Don't expect any miracles from the new secretary of defense, Robert Gates.
Gates did demonstrate a new approach to dealing with members of Congress. Unlike Rumsfeld, he displayed no arrogance or belligerence in his short answers to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
By contrast, in his many appearances before committees in Congress, Rumsfeld was intent on trying to be the smartest man in the room. He fooled only himself, and the country was the big loser.
Rumsfeld is gone. Cheney seems almost irrelevant to any direction of our foreign policy. Cheney's early words that our military would be treated as "liberators" are especially galling now.
If the president has any sense, he will adopt many of the study group's ideas, including the willingness to sit down with the Syrians and Iranians. As the study group emphasized, we sat down with the Soviets during the Cold War for many years, a reality that was lost on Bush, who came to office without a clue on foreign affairs.
When he received the report, the president relied on his usual instincts. He praised the group for being strong in the face of a city where playing politics is customary.
Sorry, Mr. President. That doesn't pass the smell test. You have been playing the political game for far too long.
Now, it is finally time to do the right thing.