In the continued pursuit of a policy that has any coherence, the Bush administration has apparently ruled out asking the Iraqi government to actually accomplish something:
Rice said the president would not agree to a plan that penalizes Baghdad if the Iraqi government fall shorts. To do so, she said, would restrain the abilities of Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
"That’s the problem with having so-called consequences," Rice said.
"To begin now to tie our own hands — and to say ‘We must do this if they don’t do that’ — doesn’t allow us the flexibility and creativity that we need to move this forward," she said.
It’s an interesting argument, for a number of reasons, the least of which is certainly not that this argument goes against the President’s rhetoric for the past four years. If anything, though, we’ve learned that lying about Iraq is such a pathological preoccupation of this administration that it would seem unfair to single out this incident.
Instead, I find myself wondering why the Bush administration refuses to hold the Iraqi government responsible for things it can control, while punishing American schoolchildren for things they cannot. Consider the way that the Virginia Department of Education describes No Child Left Behind:
For a school, school division or the commonwealth to make AYP, it must meet or exceed 29 benchmarks for participation in statewide testing, achievement in reading and mathematics, and attendance or science (elementary and middle schools) or graduation (high schools). Missing a single benchmark may result in a school or school division not making AYP.
Fascinating. Benchmarks are appropriate in the education of American children, even though the cuts in funding envisioned by NCLB would undoubtedly tie the hands of teachers and administrators in the toughest school districts, but they are not appropriate in the financial sinkhole that Iraq has become.
It’s a perfect metaphor for this administration. They clearly know firsthand that governments cannot be expected to be accountable, and are very good at attacking people who are not responsible for the problems they’ve identified. One massive failure after another.