June 15, 2005
Friedman on Iraq
Seems like Tom Friedman has gotten Eschaton all hot under the collar today. Guess he touched a nerve. And that the truth hurts (Friedman: "Liberals don't want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed.") After all, any casual reader of Kos or Atrios over the past months knows full well they have been rooting for an American failure in Iraq since, well, since at least the time of Kerry's defeat.
Golden oldie time.
Bush has spent the last year blaming all his ills on 9/11 and Bill Clinton. Well, those boogeymen are now done. Bush is now inheriting his own presidency, and he has a serious mess on his hands. The big silver lining, and it's significant, is that Kerry won't be tarred for cleaning up Bush's mess. Had Kerry gotten us out of Iraq, he would've been blamed for "losing the war". Now Bush will ineptly lose it for himself.
Or Atrios, the day of the January 30th Iraqi elections (this almost his sole comment on the going-ons in Iraq on that historic day):
Horrible. Possibly very horrible.
...good. Reuters is saying up to 15 killed which, while horrible, is much less horrible than it could have been."
Am I the only person who read this and couldn't help pausing for a second and wondering what the "...good" refers to? That something tragic happened the day of the successful elections--or that 'only' 15 British servicemen were killed? I report; you decide. [ed. note: Yeah, let's assume his basic human decency and grant him it's the latter. But still, the stench of disingenuousness positively leaps off the blog page].
But enough about liberals and Iraq, and on to the substance of Friedman's op-ed...Friedman is distinctively gloomy in his piece but, like B.D., doesn't think the gig is up (but we are at yet another Friedman "tipping point", it seems). One of the best lines in Friedman's op-ed is this new (to me) coinage re: the "Rumsfeld Doctrine": "Just enough troops to lose." Friedman neatly contrasts this with the "Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force." Somewhat relatedly, he also has this to say poo-pooing the notion of 'train and equip' as some kind of grand panacea:
Yes, yes, I know we are training Iraqi soldiers by the battalions, but I don't think this is the key. Who is training the insurgent-fascists? Nobody. And yet they are doing daily damage to U.S. and Iraqi forces. Training is overrated, in my book. Where you have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching above its weight. Where you don't have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching a clock.
But might we give Ibrahim Jaafari some more time before giving up on him? Karzai, after all, came to power amidst a relatively peaceful Kabul and environs. It has been a tougher slog for Jaafari who must spend a good deal of his time on constant security crises. He still could end up being more of an effective uniter than Friedman gives him credit for today.
I'd also quibble with this part of Friedman's piece:
Maybe it is too late, but before we give up on Iraq, why not actually try to do it right? Double the American boots on the ground and redouble the diplomatic effort to bring in those Sunnis who want to be part of the process and fight to the death those who don't. As Stanford's Larry Diamond, author of an important new book on the Iraq war, "Squandered Victory," puts it, we need "a bold mobilizing strategy" right now. That means the new Iraqi government, the U.S. and the U.N. teaming up to widen the political arena in Iraq, energizing the constitution-writing process and developing a communications-diplomatic strategy that puts our bloodthirsty enemies on the defensive rather than us. The Bush team has been weak in all these areas.
O.K, sure. Let's have a "bold mobilizing strategy." But simply saying double this and re-double that is all a bit on the facile side, no? The diplomatic effort to get the Sunnis on board--as Steve Weismann recently reported in Friedman's own paper--is going pretty strong all told. How to re-double it? Just by having our Ambassador on the ground (Friedman, quite understandably, complains we don't have Ambassadors in Amman, Kabul or Baghdad right now)? That certainly wouldn't hurt, but probably wouldn't constitute doubling our efforts to get the Sunnis on board. We're working with the EU and the U.N. too now specifically on the Sunni integration issue. Maybe we should get the Arab League more heavily involved in dialogue with wary Sunni constituencies in Iraq as well. I'm sure there has been a bit of that here and there, but perhaps that's one area we we could ratchet up involvement (Jordanian and Egyptian high-level envoys, say). And then the troop thing. Double that too Mr. Friedman advises! But where would the other 139,000 boots be coming from, exactly? Or 50,000, for that matter? All this said, it's on the "energizing" efforts related to the Iraqi constitution-writing process that Larry Diamond and Tom Friedman might have a helpful point. On this, see the talented Spencer Ackerman:
And on fewer issues does Diamond show victory was more needlessly squandered than with the U.S.-brokered Iraqi interim constitution, known as the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), completed in March 2004 with much U.S. jubilation and much Iraqi bitterness. As he recounts the story of how the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council drafted the foundational document, the sheer fact of American sponsorship of the TAL overshadowed its liberal elements to the Iraqi public, creating the widespread impression among Sunni and Shia Arabs (if not Kurds) that its unpalatable provisions were an American attempt to disenfranchise them. The CPA never recovered the initiative. Distrust of the TAL and the process that produced it hangs over the nascent attempt at crafting a permanent replacement. In short, what happened last March is not an experience we should want to repeat.
I agree. Radicals will say it's a ginned up American constitution anyway--so why not risk getting more heavily involved in the drafting if we can maybe make a difference? Yep, let's do our utmost to help get a viable constitution teed up. As Ackerman points out, Khalizad was instrumental in doing so in Kabul. Will this be a big part of his initial portfolio as he gets set up in the Green Zone? I sure hope so.
Posted by Gregory at June 15, 2005 12:04 PM
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