Friday, November 03, 2006

The Once and Future Iraq

Cdr Salamander quotes David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, who reviews an history of Iraq. "Kedourie, a Baghdad-born Jew, published the essay in 1970. It’s a history of the regime the British helped establish over 80 years ago, but it captures an idea that is truer now than ever: Disorder is endemic to Iraq. Today’s crisis is not three years old. It’s worse now, but the crisis is perpetual. This is a bomb of a nation. ... The Iraq of his youth, Kedourie concluded, “was a make-believe kingdom built on false pretenses.” He quoted a British report from 1936, which noted that the Iraqi government would never be a machine based on law that treated citizens impartially, but would always be based on tribal favoritism and personal relationships."


An history of many parts of the former Ottoman, European or Tsarist empires would read like that. The world is full of the rotting remains of former imperial glories. Iraq did you say? Sykes-Picot. Did you mention Palestine? The Balfour Declaration. All loose ends left, by nations endlessly admired as it's betters, to the one nation that never had an empire, which asked only for enough land to bury its dead.


Blogger Bruce Dearborn Walker said...

I have often wondered if the colonial powers deliberately drew maps that would sabotage the populations where they had ruled.

11/03/2006 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Brother D-Day said...

The First World War is finally coming to an end.

Would it not have been for oil, this part of the world would have been treated with the same indifference as Afghanistan, pre al Qaeda.

The West just doesn't "get it" when it comes to Islamic Asia and the Middle East.

We keep sending in our guys to do the "white man's burden" thing, and we keep coming home in pine boxes with no real results.

11/03/2006 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...


[Richard] Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.'

So sayeth one of the primary intellectual authors of the Iraq War.
Now that anyone with sanity or integrity agrees that this liberal experiment was a tremendous mistake, how do we get out?

11/03/2006 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/03/2006 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

From the Vanity Fair article:

To David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who co-wrote Bush's 2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an "axis of evil," it now looks as if defeat may be inescapable, because "the insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect them." This situation, he says, must ultimately be blamed on "failure at the center"—starting with President Bush.

Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."

Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself—what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation.

At let it, and its liberal/Trotskyite roots, stay dead! It's past time we got back to conservative and realist principles.

11/03/2006 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/04/2006 03:01:00 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

A policy that costs so little (less than 2% of economic output and 5% of US traffic deaths) ought to be continued until the Iraqi Government gets Iraq under control.

I'd be willing to give the experiment at least another 5 years. Possibly as long as 20 years.

The reason so many see Iraq as an experiment gone bad is headline news. Bomb blasts and dead bodies go to the top of the news. A better climate for business in Iraq and most of Iraq pacified is not going to be reported on the front pages.

11/05/2006 01:42:00 AM  
Blogger Buckhead said...


Don 't get to excited. All the neocons interviewed by Vanity Fair have said Vanity Fair's account of their statements conveys a deliberately false message.

11/05/2006 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Goldstein said...

The problem is not confined to Iraq. Watch "Lawrence of Arabia". Nothing has changed. The Arab world is dealing with the same problems they had 90 years ago. No progress has been made.

11/05/2006 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Starko said...

I have recently come to view Iraq as having some important, and unfortunate parallels to Vietnam. At the end of that conflict, the US had no political will to stay, and so the "Vietnamization" plan (whereby the war was handed over to South Vietnam) was carried out despite the obvious fact that it was doomed to failure.

It was doomed because the South Vietnamese as a whole were unwilling to stand and fight. I don't know the history well enough to have an opinion on why that was the case, but it seems that there was a simple lack of motivation relative to the North Vietnamese (and perhaps outright sympathy among some).

Where I think this relates to Iraq is that you now have Iraqi political, military and policing institutions that as a whole do not have the motivation to stop sectarian violence in favor of a unified Iraq. My impression is that as the South Vietnamese "slouched towards communism", the Shia are, as a whole, slouching towards ethnic cleansing and/or segregation.

I believe these are problems that could be solved over time, mainly by the slow painful process of Iraqis across all ethnicities/religious boundaries coming to understand the “game theory” involved here- namely that virtually everyone is better off in a peaceful, united Iraq.

Kosovo is still kept secure today by the NATO presence there. Yet no one is talking about that situation as an example of failed nation building. The parallels between Kosovo and Iraq are limited, but I believe a major part of the reason that Kosovo is not a politically charged deployment for the countries involved is that NATO deaths are relatively scant. Hence, like Vietnam, we may reach a point in time where the politicians pull out US troops, ready or not, and cross their fingers.

If that happens, an overwhelmingly powerful nation will forfeit the war to a relatively small number of violent insurgents who will have successfully exploited the political freedom in another country in order to withhold it from their own.

11/05/2006 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Buckhead said...

Don 't get to excited. All the neocons interviewed by Vanity Fair have said Vanity Fair's account of their statements conveys a deliberately false message.

No, not all. Adelman hasn't retracted a word. Most of the interviewees in the National Review "retraction" claim that when they poured their hearts out to British journalist David Rose they didn't know that their confessions would be used for political purposes . . . at least before the election. Pshaw.

Others, like Michael Ledeen, emphasize that they never supported the Iraq War in the first place, though he did urge "faster please" once he caught the fever. Read Perle's weasel words in National Review and you see that he isn't retracting anything. No, you can't claim the NR piece is convincing, especially when crossreferenced with similar articles in the Washington Post (Perle says much the same) or the recent NYTimes magazine article on that Iranian agent, Ahmed Chalabi. It's dead and clearly a mistake and the only thing left is for the passengers to follow the officers and crew who have already jumped ship.

11/06/2006 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger Buckhead said...

Maybe the import of what they said is in the eye of the beholder.


There has been a lot of talk this season about deceptive campaign ads, but the most dishonest document I have seen is this press release from Vanity Fair, highlighted on the Drudge Report ... Rose has earned a reputation as a truth teller. The same unfortunately cannot be said for the editors and publicists at Vanity Fair. They have repackaged truths that a war-fighting country needs to hear into lies intended to achieve a shabby partisan purpose.


For the record, I remain convinced that the liberation of Iraq was a necessary and laudable measure to prevent a megalomaniac from handing off to terrorists weapons of mass destruction for the purpose of attacking us and our allies. … I am also as committed as ever to the consolidation of the fully justified liberation of Iraq. …

I trust that these convictions, and those of others interviewed by Rose, will be accurately reflected when he finally has his full article published — hopefully, without the subterfuge and spin that characterized the publication of this press release about it.


So it is totally misleading for Vanity Fair to suggest that I have had second thoughts about our Iraq policy. But then one shouldn’t be surprised. No one ever bothered to check any of the lies in the first screed, and obviously no fact-checker was involved in the latest “promotion.” I actually wrote to David Rose, the author of the article-to-come, a person for whom I have considerable respect. He confirmed that words attributed to me in the promo had been taken out of context.


I should have known better than to trust the editors at Vanity Fair who lied to me and to others who spoke with Mr. Rose. Moreover, in condensing and characterizing my views for their own partisan political purposes, they have distorted my opinion about the situation in Iraq and what I believe to be in the best interest of our country.

I believe it would be a catastrophic mistake to leave Iraq, as some are demanding, before the Iraqis are able to defend their elected government. As I told Mr. Rose, the terrorist threat to our country, which is real, would be made much worse if we were to make an ignominious withdrawal from Iraq.


Have those interviewed changed their mind about the war? I have not, no matter how self-serving partisan pundits or lazy journalists want to spin it. …

This is not just about Iraq: If we abandon Iraq, we will not only prove correct all of Osama Bin Laden’s rhetoric about the US being a paper tiger, but we will also demonstrate — as James Baker and George H. W. Bush did in 1991 — that listening to the White House and alliance with the United States is a fool’s decision. We can expect no allies anywhere, be they in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, if we continue to sacrifice principles to short-term realist calculations.

11/06/2006 11:12:00 AM  

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