January 27, 2007

Nationally Reviewed

Mona Charen says, "So there it is, stark and unmistakable, the Democrats do not wish to win in Iraq and will do nothing to further the cause of victory. ..." She says that the real state of the union is, in a word, demoralized. Opening with further, notably ridiculous, comparisons to WWII, she offers a novel interpretation of the state of international affairs:

... After 9/11 we had a brief infusion of backbone. Afghanistan was liberated, Pakistan tamed, Libya intimidated and al Qaeda scattered. But when Iraq proved difficult, the voices of retreat and failure gained momentum.

President Bush limned the consequences of failure in Iraq — radical Islamists in command of a key nation in the Middle East with one of the largest oil reserves on the planet, our friends forsaken and our enemies emboldened. But the mood of America today is demoralized. Instead of seeking creative ways to salvage a difficult situation — the way GIs conquered the hedgerows at Normandy — the U.S. Congress seems resigned to defeat. The Democrats are voting for a resolution to condemn the “surge” of forces into Iraq, calling it an “escalation” to conjure the ghost of Vietnam.

This defeatism on the part of the Democrats and some Republicans is one of the reasons our task in Iraq is so difficult. Can a divided and demoralized nation win abroad? Don't the Islamists and the communist Chinese and the mullahs of Iran notice America's sunken chest? Is it an accident that China chose this moment to show off its satellite-killing capability? ...

Afghanistan is a settled question in her mind. Pakistan, currently supporting or at least tolerating the Taliban insurgency in that country, has been 'tamed.' Al Qaeda has been scattered, and isn't that good enough for everyone? And we should all breath a sigh of relief that the long defanged and contained nation of Libya, after having made notable contributions to the world's banana-purchasing debate, has been suitably intimidated once again.

But Iraq just "proved difficult." No. Iraq has gone downhill every single day we've been there. After the disasters of de-Baathification, disbanding the military, allowing rampant and historically tragic looting, failing to provide basic utility and healthcare services, failing to provide security for peaceable Iraqi citizens either within or outside of their homes, etc., Iraq is verging on looking like Afghanistan. They've been bombed back nearly to the Stone Age.

As far as being concerned that radical Islamists might end up in control of a major Middle East country, this is both a nebulous and laughable statement to make. Iran already has significant influence in Iraq, which was inevitable from the moment the majority Shia were given the reins of government. The ties among Shia in Iran and Iraq are, as the linked Washington Post article well illustrates, old and deep. The people in charge of Iraq today, right now, are already close with the Iranian government and have already replaced much of Iraq's former secular laws with Sharia religious laws whose implementation is already more draconian in some respects than what takes place in Iran. The likelihood that another group of radical Islamists will push the Shia out of preeminence is slim, though the Sunnis aren't taking this lying down. Yet currently, the real point of note is that there aren't any forces seriously agitating for a secular government in Iraq and the Kurds are more interested in separatism than a takeover.

There is no likely, current scenario that ends with a secular, federal Iraqi government. The options at present seem to be militant Shia allied with Iran or militant Sunnis allied with Saudi Arabia. This isn't going to change with whether the US stays or goes.

As to the US' "sunken chest," I think a far more likely thing that America's opponents on the world stage have noticed is that not even 40% of our many times redeployed armed forces support this war. I think they've noticed that this two front war of occupation hasn't worked and has bogged down our military. I think they can go to the same papers we read and find that our military equipment isn't being replaced as fast as it's being used, destroyed or damaged and that readiness has suffered for it. I think they may have noticed that we're in debt up to our eyebrows and couldn't even mount a creditable response to Hurricane Katrina. And for all of these objective, concretely measurable reasons, anyone who didn't smell blood in the water would have to be entirely missing their political olfactory glands.

As Atrios might say, this is just a reiteration of the 'clap harder' plan for success. We just have to want it more, she implies. Well you know, the Republicans that were in charge of both houses of Congress and the executive branch of our government for the duration of the Iraq war up until this month seemed to want to win in Iraq pretty damn badly. How'd that work for us, Mona?

Elsewhere, Jonah Goldberg similarly laments a lack of Democratic support for a "wartime president." It would be easy enough to point to Goldberg's 1999 dismissal of Clinton's moral authority during the intervention in Yugoslavia to suggest that he doesn't hold this point as a moral absolute, so perhaps we should examine instead his point against what he perceives to be the Democratic position:

... The 11th Commandment for liberals seems to be, "Thou shalt not intervene out of self-interest." Intervening in civil wars for humanitarian reasons is O.K., but meddling for national-security reasons is not. This would explain why liberals supported interventions in civil wars in Yugoslavia and Somalia but think being in one in Iraq is the height of folly. If only Truman had called the Korean civil war a humanitarian crisis, Ike might not have called the whole thing off.

None of this explains why Democrats are so eager to support continued U.S. fighting against the Taliban as part of NATO forces in Afghanistan, even though that puts us between two sides in what amounts to an Afghan civil war. But maybe Afghanistan is a humanitarian crisis too.

... There seems to be only one hope for persuading the Democrats to support staying in Iraq. Let's just beat the rush and call Iraq a humanitarian crisis now. It surely is already. And if we leave prematurely, Iraq will undoubtedly give Darfur and Yugoslavia a run for their money as a humanitarian horror show. Why wait for calls to return to stop the bloodshed? ...

Ah yes, it's all about what it's called. Well, let's not forget that because the United States doesn't exist in a solipsistic vacuum, other countries and actors on the world stage get to form opinions on us based more on our actions than our marketing. The credibility of any argument we might make for something actually being a humanitarian intervention is thus also judged by others and somewhat of a consensus will often emerge among people who don't share our interests about what the reality of the situation is. Are we following?

When none of the Iraqis want us to stay, when American companies get all the big reconstruction contracts in Iraq over local Iraqi companies with arguably better grounding, when US interrogators used Hussein's rape and torture rooms for their own rape and torture games, when it's reported repeatedly that numerous examples of graft and corruption have siphoned taxpayer dollars into the coffers of the Bush administration's unpunished cronies and when it begins to look like Bush wanted to just use Iraq as a stepping stone to war with Iran for control of the region's oil, well damn, but I think it's going to be a little difficult to sell US involvement in Iraq as a humanitarian concern. Just a bit, you know? A scosh problematic.

These realities, provable recent events, can't be wiped away with an assertion that, well, now we're going to continue operations there as a humanitarian mission.

On a purely metaphorical note, it would be as if Goldberg had beaten his wife into unconsciousness and, when the hospital staff asked him to leave her room, he were to argue that she clearly needed the care and support of someone close to her. It would have to be agreed that she did need that care, every bit as much as it would have to be agreed that he shouldn't be trusted to be the one providing it. Even if she turned out to have no one else nearby to offer this assistance, it could be said that she'd be better on her own entirely than in the hands of her abuser. Not that Goldberg beats his wife. I have no evidence of that.

The Iraqis are worse off today in every dimension than they were at the start of the invasion. They are more likely to be kidnapped, killed, unemployed, without health care, electricity, etc., as noted previously. That the irresponsible foreign civilian leadership who created this situation should be entrusted with trying to correct it is a proposition ludicrous on its face to both Iraqis and their neighbors.

It should be a similarly ridiculous suggestion to Americans, as well, and recent polling data would seem to indicate that it has become so. For all the good intentions and hopes we might manage to summon as a nation or within our political parties, the Bush administration needs to have Iraq removed from its managerial portfolio. Our Commander in Chief, as Bush likes to remind everyone that he is, has already lost this one on all our behalves.

The delusions of the staff of the National Review notwithstanding.

Posted by natasha at January 27, 2007 12:07 PM | Wingnuts | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |