blogenlust
11.23.2004

Why We Aren't Winning


Philip Gourevitch offers an important take on the battle of Fallujah, and our broader crisis in Iraq, in the newest New Yorker:
Guerrilla fighters need only thwart a great power to claim victory, but a great power must deliver on its promises—and there are none greater than the promises of freedom, stability, and democracy that the President has made to the Iraqi people. [...] Still, it is true that the trouble in Iraq is not an indigenous incapacity for freedom and self-rule. The trouble is with the way that Bush imagined he could impose those blessings on such a vexed country—as if simply to be invaded by America is a form of salvation. “First we blow up your house, then we pay you to rebuild it,” a colonel in Falluja told the Times, while marine intelligence officers warned that the devastation of the city makes it fertile ground for a reinvigorated insurgency. In Falluja, as in Iraq as a whole, the challenge is to maintain sufficient control to be able to repair the damage that military victory has inflicted. Judging from the Administration’s record, that will be the hard part.
From the very beginning, the notion that we could impose democracy on a country that just (forcibly) finished 30+ years of tyrannical rule was absolutely absurd. To do this with the number of troops we had was absolutely hubristic. Bush likes to talk in a way that suggests the war in Iraq, and our subsequent problems there, were forced on us by a duty to respond to grave threats facing the nation. Our duty, he often says, is to bring democracy and freedom to the people of Iraq. The reality is that we'd be a lot closer to the democratic ideal we were sold had this Administration made more informed and realistic decisions. I, for one, can't wait to see how we spin the Iraqi election on January 30th. If I were a betting man, I'd say that even if 1/4 (or less) of the population votes, we'll declare victory and get the hell out of dodge unless we don't like the results. And it will be pretty hard for us not to like the results, since we'll have a "say" in who wins. The only other option that we have is to continue to go down the path we are currently on. I doubt this is sustainable, both politically and militarily (even for W.), and rather than face the consequences of further escalation, we'll bail. Not everyone, of course, but enough to recharge the troops for Iran or Iraq III. Incidently, Gourevitch is the author of We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, an amazing account of the Rwandan genocide (yes, it was genocide) during the mid-1990s. I imagine that in a few years there will be a similar book on Sudan, which we'll all read and wonder why the hell we didn't do more.