Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The dogfight begns

Andrew J. Bacevich mulls the fight about who lost Iraq:

As the endgame in Iraq approaches, the score-settling promises to get downright ugly. Those who observe this spectacle will need a strong stomach.

Still, whatever their political inclinations, Americans should welcome this debate. At a bare minimum, the eruption of blame and backstabbing will offer considerable entertainment value. To read (on the Vanity Fair website) that neoconservative David Frum, former White House speechwriter and author of a fawning tribute to Bush, has discovered that "the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas," is simply a hoot.

More substantively, the purging of political elites infesting Washington always has a cleansing effect. Figuring out "who lost Iraq?" ought to provide the occasion for throwing out more than a few rascals who hold office and discrediting others -- a process that will no doubt get a kick-start with today's midterm elections. With luck, those surviving will be at least momentarily chastened, perhaps giving rise to an Iraq syndrome akin to the Vietnam syndrome, and which at least for a while will save us from another similar debacle.

One thing we can expect (especially over the long term) is the continuation of the "other Vietnam syndrome"--the claim that the opponents of the war are really the ones responsible for its loss (because, of course, a bunch of demonstrators have more power than the entire US military). This will involve more than just the Bush hard-liners Bacevich mentions--it will become folklore. Since it helps people avoid changing their minds, it will be popular. We've already seen the folks who change their minds and then claim that they were against the war all along, despite the evidence. What I don't see is any appreciation of the truth--that it was wrong to go to war in the first place and that it never could have been won in any meaningful sense. As I remarked even before the invasion, a truly democratic Iraq would look like--Iran. And so it does (more than one person has commented that Iran really won the war). That alone gives the lie to the claims that the neos "really" wanted to democratize Iraq (the excuse trotted out after the WMD excuse failed them).

This should involve a long national soul-searching, including the realization that this war involved the complicity of officials all the way up to the top in war crimes--deliberately and with malice aforethought. But I doubt that the nation has the courage for that much introspection.

Tip of the hat to Laura Rozen

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