To see what Iraq will look like after January 30, just look north: Here in Kurdistan, the election is already over, even before anyone has cast a ballot.
In March 2003, Americans thrilled to televised scenes of U.S. forces moving into Iraq. Well-spoken soldiers, modern equipment, and embedded reporters suggested a sense of purpose, competence, and courage that resonated across the country. But today, 14 months later, the mission is in shambles, scarred by rising Iraqi popular discontent, continued attacks against U.S. forces, infiltration of foreign fighters, mounting civil strife, and no credible sense of direction. Despite President George W. Bush's calls for staying the course, American public opinion has clearly turned against the mission.
Most of the time in war, diplomatic machinations don't create enduring realities--events on the battlefield do. After World War I, the defeated, but not humiliated, German army that surrendered in France and Belgium provided the origins for the "stab in the back" mythology that fueled Hitler's rise to power. After World War II, by contrast, the shattered and shamed Wehrmacht in Berlin was unable to energize a Fourth Reich. George S.
America's Iraq policy requires a fundamental strategic reappraisal. The present policy--justified by falsehoods, pursued with unilateral arrogance, blinded by self-delusion, and stained by sadistic excesses--cannot be corrected with a few hasty palliatives. The remedy must be international in character; political, rather than military, in substance; and regional, rather than simply Iraqi, in scope. Rectifying the increasingly messy Iraqi adventure requires understanding its root: the extremist foreign policy pursued by this administration.
Last August, I participated in a town-hall meeting hosted by the administrative council of Dibis, an ethnically mixed town 22 miles northwest of Kirkuk. Locals complained about everything from sporadic electricity to fertilizer shortages to potholes, and their Iraqi representatives listened attentively. It was an encouraging sight, all the more so because the month before, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer had proudly announced, in a televised speech, that "all of Iraq's main cities, and dozens of other towns, now have administrative councils." But there was a problem.
The sunburned Englishman sat at the bar of the Peponi Hotel in Lamu, nursing a vodka-and-grapefruit-juice cocktail and sucking on an Embassy cigarette. A former resort owner who sold out a couple of years ago but still pays regular visits to this island off the Kenyan coast, Gerald had recently returned from a fishing trip to the neighboring island of Kiwayu—a journey that had turned up unsettling evidence of the changes creeping into the region. The Kiwayu beach hotel was deserted, he said, except for a pair of FBI agents who had converted their bungalow into a listening post.
This month, the Afghan leaders gathered in Kabul for a loya jirga, or grand council, agreed on a new, progressive constitution for this war-torn country. Unfortunately, Afghan officials say, the new constitution will not guarantee security. In fact, in recent months violence has risen sharply across Afghanistan, much of it instigated by Islamist Taliban remnants who despise President Hamid Karzai's vision of a liberal state.