Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Can I express a little frustration?
Some of us who supported the war were nonetheless skeptical of the prospects for Iraqi democracy, for a whole variety of reasons. So an article like this one isn't exactly a shocker. Indeed, I recall one very precient blogger writing in October of 2002:
I worry about this [that we're unprepared for the post-war period] for a particular and somewhat paradoxical reason: the war is going to be too easy. Twice before in American history, the United States conquered an enemy, imposed its will and reconstructed the enemy's society. The two instances were: the Civil War and World War II. In each case, the United States was fully mobilized for war, was engaged in combat for years, suffered significant losses before the war was over and achieved an unambiguous victory over the enemy's entire society. None of this will be true in Iraq: we will fight without anything like total social mobilization; we will win quickly and hopefully without many losses (the latter is hard to be sure about; what if Saddam has a bomb, and uses it? Or what if his nerve gas is a more effective battlefield weapon than Gregg Easterbrook thinks it is? But even so, the war will be over quickly); and we will win a victory over a regime without popular support - assuming we win it at all, for it is possible that Saddam will escape as Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden did. For all these reasons, America will not be reconciled to the heavy responsibilities and cost of reconstruction, and Iraq will not be reconciled to the justice of a long-term American presence. We will not be used to shouldering a heavy burden, and Iraq will not feel conquered, but liberated - liberated for each group to pursue its own sectarian vendettas or to struggle for the spoils of a fallen state. For these reasons, Iraq will look very little like Japan or Alabama. And yet our task will be rather similar.
It was possible, in other words, to go into this war with one's eyes open. You didn't have to assume that we'd be welcomed with flowers and that Iraq would become a stalwart American ally.
Now, I don't begrudge the pollyannas their optimism. This country was built on optimism. What drives me nuts, though, is stuff like this piece by Bernard Lewis and James Woolsey saying that maybe we should bring back the Hashemites to establish a more legitimate order in Iraq.
I don't remember precisely where Lewis stood before the war, though I know he was supportive generally. But I'm quite sure that Woolsey was one of the pollyannas, a big booster of Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, the whole nine yards. Now he's boosting the idea of a Hashemite restoration. But if I recall correctly, one of the main *opponents* of bringing in a Hashemite was the Ahmad Chalabi. I believe he articulated the view that to restore the Hashemites would be a betrayal that would justly result in Iraqi resistance to the American occupation.
I'm not asking Woolsey to say, "sorry, I was wrong." I don't even know if his new angle is right; I can think of a few problems with the idea of bringing back the monarchy. I am, however, asking him - and Richard Perle, and the rest of the gung-ho crowd - to start taking this job seriously and stop acting like rebuilding Iraq is something we can make up as we go along. If we though the way to go was to restore the Hashemite monarchy, we needed to lay the groundwork a long while ago. We needed to make that clear before we went in, before we made anyone any promises, before we threw our lot in with the INC and before we rebuffed Abdullah of Jordan's uncle (the likely candidate for the job of King of Iraq). We can't just pull a switcheroo like this. We're not founding an internet company here that can rebrand every six months with no one left the wiser. We are in no danger of losing Iraq due to excessive casualties. If we are in danger of losing Iraq, it's because sometimes we seem to be going about this like a bunch of amateurs.