Thursday, June 30, 2005

The intelligent American position

Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former senior adviser to the Iraqi coalition government, summarizes the intelligent American position on the reasons for the current American problems in Iraq (published, needless to say, in Knight Ridder newspapers). I don't want anyone smirking about the phrase 'intelligent American position' (an oxymoron?), and perhaps I should say 'more intelligent American position'.

There are some big problems with the intelligent American position. He overstates the value of the things the Americans have done right (the schools and hospitals are a mess, and he has the good sense not to even mention the outrageous electricity and water/sewage situations), doesn't seem to understand that the evidence in the 'mass' graves is highly problematic from the point of view of proving that Saddam was as bad as he is officially supposed to have been, neglects to mention that internal Pentagon planning documents covered all the issues before the war and were simply ignored by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, and pretends not to notice that many of the problems in Iraq may be the intentional work of the neocons attempting to keep Iraq as weak as possible.

On the other hand, he nails some important points (but note that even an intelligent American can't write sense without mentioning the "foreign jihadist terrorists"):

"From the moment that Baghdad fell in April 2003 and much of the public infrastructure was systematically destroyed, the United States failed to fulfill the first overriding obligation of an occupying power: to establish and maintain order. Coalition (mainly American) forces failed to secure Iraq's cities, roads, electricity grids, oil pipelines and borders. The tenacious insurgency, fed and emboldened by an escalating influx of foreign jihadist terrorists, sabotaged roads and crucial facilities as rapidly as they were repaired."


"Why did this happen? Both the military and civilian aspects of the postwar mission were astonishingly short of resources. Not only did the coalition forces not have nearly enough troops, but America also never had enough armored Humvees and other vehicles, including helicopters, or high-quality body armor. We never had nearly enough translators and interpreters, nor enough civilians who knew Iraq's culture, history and language."

He also points out specific policy blunders, the fact that the whole occupation has been characterized by overwhelming American hubris, and the fact that the Young Republicans who have been left in charge of running things are morons. Most importantly, he concludes:

"To achieve lasting peace in Iraq, America will have to make concessions, including an explicit commitment not to seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Perhaps no issue in the coming years will more clearly expose the real purpose of the Bush administration's postwar mission in Iraq: to build democracy or to obtain a new, regional military platform in the heart of the Arab world.

Make no mistake about it: While Iraqis are glad to be rid of Saddam, they also want their country back. Only if we make it clear that we will withdraw our military forces when Iraq is stable will we create the political context in which Iraq can once again become secure. The alternative would leave us mired indefinitely in a violent quagmire in Iraq."

This is key, and is perhaps the main reason why the United States is doomed. The American government will never give up those bases, will thus never end the insurgency, and will have to watch Iraq turn into Vietnam. To emphasize just how bad things are, Vietnam is the best case scenario. The worst case scenario, and one that is far more likely, is World War III in the Middle East.