July 10, 2006

Stuff Happens Watch

Another day of wanton mayhem in Baghdad. I guess Frederick Kagan's policy prescriptions have been given short shrift by this Administration, as we continue to appear to be mostly AWOL (recent operations of dubious efficacy in Sadr City aside) in terms of establishing a semblance of order in Baghdad. And so it's depressing to see one of our few intelligent Administration figures (rather rare in this era of incompetence and paranoia, as a very wise octegenarian I spent time with while in Beijing last week put it to me succinctly), Nicholas Burns, say the following on Wolf Blitzer's show today:

BLITZER: Do you have confidence that the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, himself a Shiite, is going after these Shiite militias which are apparently responsible for this latest surge in sectarian violence?

BURNS: Wolf, we have great confidence in Prime Minister Maliki. He's someone who has a very clear sense of what he wants to do. He's someone who's been saying the right things and doing the right things, frankly, to try to bring order back to the streets of Iraq.

Obviously, the government of Iraq has a right and a self-interest in going after terrorist groups, and those terrorists who would disturb the peace and who are responsible for the bombings in Baghdad. And so you have to understand that the government has that right, and I think we have to wait and see in the full light of day.

All the details of these reports are coming in, but we have great confidence in the government of Iraq, and we understand that law and order and maintaining order in the streets, and especially going after the terrorist groups is something that any government, including the Iraqi government, has a first-order priority to accomplish. [emphasis added]

Memo to Nick Burns: This is our job, and should be our first priority to accomplish. You break it, you own it--as Colin Powell memorably put it. Look, if this Administration cannot advance a credible strategy to assert control over Baghdad, the gig might as well be up. If there are any grown-ups left out there--and they just might be reading this humble blog--I beseech them to alert the powers-that-be that the time has come to put up, or shut up. Either the US has to show it has the wherewithal to stand tall and fight this fight (meaning more than anything just now, that we must lead the effort to secure the capital rather than blather on about Maliki having a "first order priority" to go after "terrorist groups", whatever the hell that means), or we should start thinking about a strategic withdrawal, if it comes to that. Alas, there is no Henry Kissinger around to engineer a 'peace with honor' style exit, so our increasing impotence (see Israel-Palestine, Iran, N. Korea, etc) would be even more nakedly apparent for all to see.

Is it hyperbolic of me to speak of strategic despair in the face of the gross incompetence emitting from Washington these days? Perhaps. But I've spoken to some very seasoned former diplomats recently, guys who were real players in their day (not just your typical retired Foggy Bottom blowhards, and most of them Republican-leaning) and they are pretty stunned also by the sorry spectacle we're all taking in. It's not pretty, and the Democrats have little better to offer, sadly. So what is to be done?

Nic Robertson today reports on CNN International that the fear and chaos are so bad in Baghdad that rumors were swirling around town that a girl (I forget if she was Sunni or Shia) had been decapitated by a militia and that a dog's head had been sewn back to her neck. The story is doubtless bogus, of course. But that's not the point. The point is this speaks to a mood. A mood of medieval fear at savage, pagan-like forces afoot. Does "freedom is untidy" Rumsfeld have a clue at the depth of this insecurity and fear gripping Baghdad? Of course not. He's a spent, tired force--running out the clock now with impunity until he's good and ready to go. The Boy Emperor, his heart in the right place but his historical ignorance and incredible myopia rendering him ineffective in the extreme, cannot help either. Cheney, as Brent Scrowcroft intimated, is no longer the credible national security player he once was. Condi has at least contained Rumsfeld's so imbecilic forays onto State's turf, but hasn't yet helped cause a major strategic re-think of our increasingly failed polices, on display from Gaza City to Kandahar. The bench is thin, you might say.

P.S. Sorry to be so grim upon returning from overseas, but there it is. Maybe it's the jet lag. As for this blog, I suppose it's no secret I've become increasingly disenchanted with large swaths of the blogosphere. I guess while horrific events are underway as today in Baghdad, and people seemingly appear to care more about whether some site has gone down because of a DoS attack of some such, or are busy moronically chastising the NYT about photographs of Rummy's St. Michael's digs, I get tired of all the crap (see Glenn Greenwald's evisceration of this last here). Will I keep writing here? Yes, but perhaps without comments, timestamps, and the rest of it--so that it's less 'bloggy'. Then again, I have enjoyed comments often, so may end up keeping them (they're down still regardless for a spell as I sort out Moveable Type issues).

Anyway, just a brief digression by way of clueing you in to my state of mind. Traffic will go down, but I'm OK w/ that. I'm afraid I just don't have the fortitude or time to keep up with the "dialogue" anymore, especially given how often it degenerates into laughable stuff like the St. Michaels hullabaloo. It's all rather "BAD", in the way Paul Fussell meant the term as sketched out in the book I link, and I've little desire to wallow around in all of it. Sorry if this sounds off-putting to anyone out there passionate about the New York Times treasonous surreptitious alliance with al-Qaeda and its reckless endangering of our finest public servants. If that's what you're after, I beg you, please don't come around here anymore. As for my readers who do stick it out, I will try to put up new content here, mostly on foreign policy matters, once or twice a week (sometimes more often, sometimes less). Thanks for sticking around through it all. Yes, the thrill may be gone, but there's a lot afoot on the foreign policy front, and so I feel compelled to keep on throwing in my 2 cents now and again. Hopefully some of it might even make sense, at least once in a while.

Posted by Gregory at July 10, 2006 03:29 AM

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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