Friday, January 28, 2005


Why we can't "win" in Iraq

Matt Yglesias makes a lot of sense (unfortunately).
The Contradictions of Kristolism

Justin Logan reports on today's Brookings Iraq event:
I asked a question during the proceedings of Bill Kristol, since in response to a question about the occupation fueling the insurgency, he admitted that "in some ways, what we have is the worst of both worlds." I told him that I understood that he and others would like to have lots more troops in Iraq, and that I imagined Iraq may look different if we had 300,000 or 400,000 troops there. But I asked him, since we don't have that kind of an army to deploy, why he would continue to advocate a policy he ackowledges as the "worst of both worlds" in the sense of not being able to impose its will on the Iraqi people while simultaneously fueling the fires of nationalism and resistance. He replied by saying that he didn't mean it was really the worst of both worlds, that maybe that was too extreme a rhetorical flourish, but that it illustrates the absurdity of having a "pre-9/11" military, diplomatic corps, intelligence community, et cetera, serving the ends of a "post-9/11" foreign policy.
This is quite the nonsensical reply from Kristol, or so it seems to me. He thinks our goals should be X, and that achieving X requires us to have A, while in fact we have B which cannot achieve X. Nevertheless, he is unwilling to contemplate scaling our goals back to something other than X even though there is no prospect of us acquiring A at any point in the future. Note that even if the will to create an Army properly sized and structured so as to implement a Kristol-esque policy existed in Washington (and it doesn't) it would take far too long to put it together (even if we started tomorrow, which we won't) in order for it to be a difference-maker in Iraq. If you believe, as Kristol apparently does, that winning in Iraq requires several hundred thousand additional troops, then the only reasonable thing to conclude is that we must give up on winning and start thinking about the best way to go home. Those additional 150,000-250,000 troops aren't going to appear just by magic, even if we draft the entire Weekly Standard editorial team.
That puts it pretty starkly: We need X troops to win; we don't have X troops and we aren't going to get X troops; therefore, we can't win.

This makes me sad and angry. I opposed the invasion of Iraq. I didn't think it was in any way justified, I thought it would inflame world opinion against us, and I didn't think this Administration had a hope in hell of doing a good job of it. I also thought they had no plan for running Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein (I never had a doubt that they would easily topple him). I thought they were ridiculously optimistic about being greeted universally as liberators.

However. We did invade. We did overthrow Saddam Hussein as easily as we conquered Grenada.

And we didn't have a plan for the aftermath. We were wrong about being greeted as liberators.

(When I say "we", I mean, of course, George W. Bush and all his incompetent cohorts. We as in America and the American people and the lamebrains they unaccountably entrusted with the greatest military machine ever assembled in the history of the planet. We voted for them, even if I never voted for any of them, so whether I like it or not, they speak for us, even if they don't.)

But, having conquered the place, we have a responsibility to really make it the paradise we promised. And we can't. We don't have the necessary forces - and Bush was warned ahead of going in that he didn't have the necessary forces - and no amount of policy debate can change that. Under those circumstances, invading in the first place was worse than a war crime - it was a folly of monumental, historical proprotions.

Bush and his cheerleaders should be cast into the locked cellar of history, never to be visited, never to be seen again. That this did not happen - that George W. Bush was re-elected and his tub-thumping butt-licking claque in Congress, the media, and the blogosphere are still yapping that the invasion was justified and that all is going well - is a tragedy as well as a farce.

America is caught in an impossible dilemma. We can't simply pull out - who knows what chaos and carnage would result, not just in Iraq but elsewhere? - and we can't stay, because we can't do any real good by staying. Until Americans wise up to this horror, things are just going to get worse, and far more Americans and Iraqis are going to die for no reason at all.
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