Monday, 18 October 2004

Before and After

Thomas Friedman has always been way too hawkish for me, but his analysis has always incorporated a wealth of knowledge and research into foreign affairs. His recent scathing editorial about the Bush team's breathtaking bungling of the war in Iraq stands in fascinating counterpoint to Friedman's own prewar belief in the nobility of the vision of a democratized Iraq, in spite of his prescient misgivings about the gamble.
...Mr. Bush's audacious shake of the dice appeals to me. He summed it up well in his speech last week: "A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interest in security and America's belief in liberty both lead in the same direction — to a free and peaceful Iraq."
Being away has not changed my belief one iota in the importance of producing a decent outcome in Iraq, to help move the Arab-Muslim world off its steady slide toward increased authoritarianism, unemployment, overpopulation, suicidal terrorism and religious obscurantism. But my time off has clarified for me, even more, that this Bush team can't get us there, and may have so messed things up that no one can. Why? Because each time the Bush team had to choose between doing the right thing in the war on terrorism or siding with its political base and ideology, it chose its base and ideology.
A U.S. invasion to disarm Iraq, oust Saddam Hussein and rebuild a decent Iraqi state would be the mother of all presidential gambles. Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts. You could do this only if you really believed in it, because Mr. Bush is betting his whole presidency on this war of choice.
What I resent so much is that some of us actually put our personal politics aside in thinking about this war and about why it is so important to produce a different Iraq. This administration never did.
So here's how I feel: I feel as if the president is presenting us with a beautiful carved mahogany table — a big, bold, gutsy vision. But if you look underneath, you discover that this table has only one leg. His bold vision on Iraq is not supported by boldness in other areas. And so I am terribly worried that Mr. Bush has told us the right thing to do, but won't be able to do it right.
here is the cold, hard truth: This war has been hugely mismanaged by this administration, in the face of clear advice to the contrary at every stage. As a result, the range of decent outcomes in Iraq has been narrowed and the tools we have to bring even those about are more limited than ever.
So there you have it. Friedman was downright prophetic when it comes to speculating on the outcome of policy, but not so insightful in his judgment about the apolitical nature of the policy makers.

[Note: this generated quite a lot of discussion over on WatchBlog.]

1 comment:

-epm said...

Excellent, Walker. A+... Go to the head of the blog.

A lot of level-headed hawks were all weepy-eyed about the possibilities for Iraq and the Middle East before we actually blew the place up. What we're seeing now -- days before the election -- are many of these people -- columnists, generals, and conscience-plagued insiders -- coming forward (sometimes through "leaked" reports) to saying the Emperor's clothes are indeed missing. They all but say "stop him before it's too late."

Now, it turns out, our jingoistic and botched foray into Bagdad has actually caused reform efforts in neighboring countries like Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia to be curtailed. The complete opposite of what was promised.