Bad news Monday

1. Hearing that the jihadis had captured two U.S. soldiers was like hearing the words, “Mom found a lump”: it might turn out OK but you’re pretty sure it won’t, and until you know one way or another you’re just going to have to deal with that sinking feeling. Eight thousand troops are searching by land, sea, and air for the two Pfcs, identified this morning by the Pentagon as Thomas Lowell Tucker and Kristian Menchaca. Given what they’ve done to civilian hostages, god only knows what special terror the mujahedeen have in store for true-blue American crusaders.

2. Two reactions to the cable sent from the American embassy in Baghdad on June 6th to the State Department and leaked to WaPo this weekend. First, as much as I love him, Steyn needs to temper the cheerfulness a bit. Things might be going “swell” by historical standards, but when kids can’t wear shorts outside without risking execution, such adjectives come off as a bit cavalier. Second, which end of the cable, do you suppose, leaked it to the Post? State Department malcontents can always be counted on to undermine the administration with a well-placed leak, but given the nature of the cable, I have to believe the disgruntled party came from within the embassy. Don’t be surprised if WaPo has more scoops in this vein from the same source in the next few weeks.

3. WaPo strikes again with news that Bush could have brought Iran to the table on his terms — including cooperation on terrorism and limited recognition of Israel — in 2003 after we knocked over Saddam, but declined because he thought the Iranian mullahocracy was ready to fall. Nice timing on this one:

While the Iranian approach has been previously reported, the actual document making the offer has surfaced only in recent weeks. Trita Parsi, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he obtained it from Iranian sources. The Washington Post confirmed its authenticity with Iranian and former U.S. officials.

This leak is the mullahs’ way of reestablishing their good faith in the court of international public opinion while they stonewall on negotiations over their nuke program. If WaPo hadn’t run the story someone else would have, but it’s still depressing to see a major American newspaper used so transparently for propaganda by an enemy regime.

Jon Henke thinks we should have taken Iran up on their offer. I’d love to give him the righteous slapdown about propping up internally weak terrorist governments by legitimizing them through negotiations — but I can’t anymore, now can I?

Or can I? WaPo sells the ’03 offer as having placed “everything” on the table, but that’s not true. There’s nothing in it about domestic reform, particularly the democratic kind upon which the Bush doctrine insists. It’s a naked attempt by the mullahs to preserve their own power by compromising on the more belligerent points of their foreign policy. If you believe, as Bush and Natan Sharansky do, that democracy is the long-term solution to the problems of the Middle East, then it makes sense to reject it. If you don’t, or if you think we’re better off with the incremental approach of short-term security gains and diplomatic nudges towards free elections, then you accept it. Either way, I don’t think grudging negotiation on the narrow point of nuclear disarmament as we’re doing now legitimizes Iran the way a “grand bargain” would have.

I also think Jon’s entirely too credulous about this statement from Trita Parsi, the source of the Iranian document, which he quotes in his post:

The incident “strengthened the hands of those in Iran who believe the only way to compel the United States to talk or deal with Iran is not by sending peace offers but by being a nuisance,” Parsi said.

That comes dangerously close to suggesting that the Iranians wouldn’t be meddling in Iraq if only we’d negotiated with them back when. Given how forthright and honest they’ve been in the current round of negotiations, anyone else believe they’d have kept their promises like good boys and girls if we’d struck a bargain in ’03 — particularly when they saw the Sunni insurgency start to draw blood? If so, please see “Korea, North” in your CIA handbook.

Update: It’s not all bad news, though. McQ looks at the security situation in Iraq and circles Summer 2007 on his calendar. Lots of charts, too!

Update: Dan Riehl‘s got some good news too, involving troops, Okinawa, and Iraq.