December 01, 2006
Rashomon, Conservative Pundit Style
Yesterday, George Will weighed in on the Bush-Webb brouhaha. He blasted Webb, writing: Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy." [snip] Webb certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor.
November 30, 2006
Merry Christmas, Kim
This morning's Washington Post has what seems like an unrealistically optimistic piece on North Korean sanctions. There isn't much of a news peg here--the U.S. has published its list of restricted goods, but the U.N. sanctions were passed more than a month ago--so the Post's strategy is to claim that the measures, which are supposed to limit (among other things) the flow of Kim Jung Il's favorite luxury items, are "effective this holiday season" and will thus ruin Kim's Christmas: The U.S. list of more than 60 items reads like a letter to Santa from the dictator who has everything.
November 27, 2006
Ally with the Sunnis
The war in Iraq is lost--at least the original one, which was to make the place and then all of Arabia safe through democracy. The "democratic peace"--the idea that only despots make war while democracies are basically pacific--is as old as the republic itself. But not even Woodrow Wilson, the most fervent believer in the idea, went to war against Wilhelmine Germany in 1917 for the sake of democracy. That was the ideological icing on a power-political cake. The Kaiser's U-boats were sinking U.S.
To the Brink
I can't even imagine Iraq anymore. It exceeds my capacity to visualize horror. In a recent interview with The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid, a woman named Fatima put it this way: "One-third of us are dying, one-third of us are fleeing, and one-third of us will be widows." At the Baghdad morgue, they distinguish Shia from Sunnis because the former are beheaded and the latter are killed with power drills. Moqtada Al Sadr has actually grown afraid of his own men. I came of age believing the United States had a mission to stop such evil. And now, not only isn't the United States stopping it--in
Crush the Sunnis
U.S. troops must leave Iraq--but not just yet, and not in the manner many Democrats have suggested. Islamists in general, and Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in particular, are always pointing to past U.S. military retreats--Vietnam in 1975, Lebanon in 1984, Somalia in 1994--as evidence that the American will to wage war invariably collapses as conflicts drag on. As a result, retreating from Iraq now would simply encourage Islamists to attack U.S.
Of all the exasperations of this war, the most stinging is that its beginning is not all you need to know about its ending. The high reasons for the war were attended by fantasy, ignorance, and deceit. This cannot be denied. And in view of such origins, the temptation to insist upon a swift evacuation is very great. Almost 3,000 Americans have been killed, and more than 20,000 Americans have been wounded; and 150,000 Iraqis have been killed, according to the Iraqi government, in the fratricide that the war unleashed. 150,000: we are approaching a Saddam-like magnitude for the murder of innocen
Admit It's Over
Americans tend to think we can achieve almost any goal if we just expend more resources and try a bit harder. That spirit has built the greatest nation in history, but it may be dooming Iraq. As the head of the British Army recently noted, the very presence of large numbers of foreign combat troops is the source of much of the violence and instability. Our efforts, then, are merely postponing the day when Iraqis find their way to something approaching normalcy. Only withdrawal offers a realistic path forward. Too often in the Iraq debate, we have let intuition, slogans, and appealing thoughts
Talk, Talk, Talk
I am not sure that there is anything that we can do with our army in Iraq that won't make things worse than they are. That may be an un-American sentiment. (Isn't there always something to do, and aren't we always the ones who can do it?) But what are our options? Should we "stay the course"? That only means more of the same awfulness. Bring in more troops? That might have worked a few years ago; now, it would only generate more resistance and make the awfulness more awful. In any case, it is politically impossible here at home. Withdraw immediately?
The partition of Iraq has already taken place. Our choice now is simple: We can acknowledge this reality and try to make the best of a bad situation, or we can continue to resist it at the cost of American and Iraqi lives. This does not necessarily mean that Iraq will split into separate countries in the short term (although the eventual independence of Kurdistan appears inevitable). For now, it simply means accepting a very loose federal system in which Kurds, Shia, and Sunnis take almost complete control of their own affairs. Iraqis themselves have clearly chosen disunity. In the December 20
Keep It Whole
It is a measure of just how unmanageable the war in Iraq has become that an increasing number of politicians and foreign policy analysts are subscribing to Senator Joe Biden's plan to partition Iraq into independent Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish "statelets." On the surface, partition seems like an attractive option. After all, the argument goes, Iraq is already bitterly divided along sectarian lines. Partitioning the country would only formalize what is taking place on the ground. But, despite portrayals to the contrary, Iraq is not so cleanly divided along sectarian lines. The homogenization of Ir