A matter of terms
The "isolationist" George McGovern flew this
over Germany in 1944-45.
Our Iraqi MistakeWhat was it, exactly?
By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007, at 3:44 PM ET
Virtually everyone now agrees that the war in Iraq has been a vast mistake. But what, exactly, was the nature of that mistake? The isolationist left and the realist right—George McGovern and Brent Scowcroft—emphasize that our error was intervening in the absence of overwhelming national interest. At the opposite end of the foreign policy continuum, the neoconservatives contend that invading Iraq was a perfectly good idea undermined by incompetent implementation. In the space between are liberal hawks who originally supported the war and a variety of skeptics who didn't. They now tend to agree that the war was both a mistake in theory and a disaster in execution.
What makes this backward-looking conversation more than academic is its implications for American foreign policy beyond Iraq. The U.S. defeat in Vietnam left a disinclination to use military force that lasted many years. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all," the first President Bush declared at the height of his seeming Gulf War triumph in 1991. And I've brought it roaring back, his son might well respond.
But if the invasion of Iraq is mainly a case of bungled execution—a war that, whether justified or not in principle, could have left behind a peaceful, functioning Iraqi state at a tolerable cost—then the isolationist/realist lesson is the wrong one to draw.
I love when some assclown like Lord Weisberg questions someone like George McGovern, who's personal courage is beyond question.
But here's a brief explaination of why the Iraq war failed.
1)Iraq is not an artificial state, but one with distinct interest groups. Saddam spent much of his time protecting himself from, and catering to them. Some people, the Talibanis, the Sadrs, were never happy, but others were. If you try to fracture Iraq, no state will be strong enough to survive.
2) Exiles sold their fantasies of being conquering heroes and instead were met with contempt from the survivors of Saddam. They were weaker compared to the prevailing forces, the Sunni shieks, B'aathists, Sadrists and Sistani. All would define what would happen in Iraq far more than any exile
3) There were two different plans for Iraq, both doomed to fail. The first was to hand the country over to Chalabi, which would have resulted in anarchy within days, or to establish a colonial regime. Since the infighting was so intense, neither plan was fully hatched until Viceroy Bremer was sent to bring order
4)The Bush Administration had no respect for the complications of establishing order in a colony, so they sent the young and untrained to run Iraq. Few ever saw what they were supposed to be changing. The Americans neither trusted nor respected the Iraqis they were supposed to serve. Having no training in foreign service matters, they were more hinderance than help.
5)Combat never stopped. The US was unable to ever establish order in the streets of Baghdad, which meant their word was useless. Soon, those who worked with the Americans became targets. The Iraqis had a much better sense of how to manipulate the Americans than vice versa.
6) Despite all their blather, few people realized what this war was quickly turning into. They talked about Al Qaeda and dead enders, but in less than a year, the Shia were running major attacks on them. Only Sistani's intervention prevented a full scale war on the Americans. The US was falling into the trap of fighting a colonial war, while all the warbloggers talked about Islamofascism. While they were attacking Cindy Sheehan, they forgot one thing: her son was killed by the Sadrists. Which went against the narrative we had been fed.
7) By the time the Iraqis finally had elections, what you had was all the factions, excluding the Sunnis, in parliment, and they wanted revenge. The government forces quickly fell under the spell of various militias and while we trained them, they didn't improve their effectiveness. But the Mahdi Army did. SCIRI did, the guerrillas in Anbar Province did.
While there was a great deal of rhetoric about a united Iraq, the US was playing the game of divide and conquer. Their trump move was to install Hakim's puppet over Maliki. Until Sistani said no, and left the power in the hands of Sadr. The exact opposite of their plans.
It wasn't bungled execution.
No Iraqi government not controlled by the Sadrists could have survived. Because they are the majority. They had no interest in sharing anything or a democratic government. Because this is a colonial war, and no structure set up by the US would have had any credibility.
posted by Steve @ 1:28:00 AM