The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times has hardly been reliable when it comes to the war in Iraq. This is not to say the paper has been consistently wrong — as far back as October 2002, the Times’ editorial board showed impressive foresight in denouncing Congress’ resolution authorizing Bush to pursue a confrontation with Iraq.
Since then, however, the LAT editorial board has grown increasingly confused. Earlier this year, the paper endorsed Bush’s escalation policy. In March, in a particularly disturbing editorial, the Times blasted congressional Dems’ withdrawal timeline, calling it an “unruly mess: bad public policy, bad precedent and bad politics.” Right from the White House talking points, the LAT accused Speaker Pelosi of trying to “micromanage the conflict, and the evolution of Iraqi society, with arbitrary timetables and benchmarks.”
Yesterday, the paper gave up. “The time has come,” the Times said, “to leave.”
This newspaper reluctantly endorsed the U.S. troop surge as the last, best hope for stabilizing conditions so that the elected Iraqi government could assume full responsibility for its affairs. But we also warned that the troops should not be used to referee a civil war. That, regrettably, is what has happened. […]
With four out of five additional battalions now in place, there is no reason to believe that the surge will help bring about an end to what is, in fact, a multifaceted civil war…. Having invested so much in Iraq, Americans are likely to find disengagement almost as painful as war. But the longer we delay planning for the inevitable, the worse the outcome is likely to be.
The editorial is not without flaw — it recommends a policy whereby combat forces would depart “by the end of 2009″ — but the LAT finally seems to have gotten the big picture right. It's about time.