Friday, December 15, 2006

Asking the Question...

As Iraq continues to degenerate, even the deepest Kool-Aid drinkers on the neocon right (save for the the absolute true-believers who continue to believe that Iraq is a stunning success obscured only by "enemedia" lies) are forced to admit the extent of the debacle. Still, they tie themselves into knots trying to salvage the enormous foreign policy failure that they helped create in the first place. In the December/January issue of Policy Review, Robert Zelnick of the Hoover Institution, argues that no matter how bad the situation in Iraq is, the US cannot pull out. But he is forced - by reality - to admit, up front, that the whole enterprise was based on the most shocking display of incompetence, mendacity and naivety ever witnessed in modern US history:

The country may have entered the war with erroneous notions of the state of Saddam’s wmd programs. It may have underestimated the resilience of former Baathists and regime loyalists, their access to weapons and the help they would get from foreign jihadists. It may have failed to anticipate that a society divided and oppressed by an authoritarian ruler might erupt into ethnic and religious conflict when that leader departs. It may have been naïve in thinking that an externally modeled Iraqi democratic government would opt for secular rather than sectarian parliamentary representation and that its near perfect transition would transform the region into a galaxy of democratic states. And it may have underestimated the number of troops needed to occupy a country of 25 million.

Mr. Zelnick then spends thousands of words describing just how awful the situation in Iraq currently is, and dissecting the massive errors in policy and judgment that brought that situation about. The two questions he never tries to answer - indeed the two questions that tower over his entire article, given that opening - are: who is responsible for this? and what are the consequences for them? The "country" did not enter the war with "erroneous notions of Saddam's wmd programs," nor did "the country" underestimate the possibility of an insurgency, nor did "the country" fail to adequately plan the post-war rebuilding or contemplate the possibility of sectarian strife. The Bush administration - the President and his advisors, appointees and cabinet officers - were solely responsible for those errors. President Bush is the chief executive; his orders launched this disaster into motion. Ultimately, all responsibility rests with him. Given that those errors have cost the lives of almost 3,000 American soldiers, maimed and crippled thousands more, turned Iraq into a abbatoir of religious fanaticism, drained the US treasury and severely damaged American strategic position in the Middle East and Asia, should the President bear no cost? Where are the conservatives with the courage to demand a consequence for the President's actions? Where is the demand for resignation? If, as many conservatives loudly asserted, Bill Clinton should have resigned for his sexual indiscretions with an intern in the Oval Office, should not a president who has so badly mishandled the nation's foreign policy be called upon to surrender the office that he is clearly not competent to hold? Or has conservatism simply become intellectual pretense in service of gaining and maintaining political power? The answer to that last question, sadly, lies in the bloodied, ruined sands of Iraq.


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