Who "lost" Iraq?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt
As much as I cheer every time another prominent cheerleader for the Iraq war leaves the ship, I kind of wish conservative military commentator Ralph Peters had stayed where he was.
...for all our errors, we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to build a rule-of-law democracy. They preferred to indulge in old hatreds, confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption. It appears that the cynics were right: Arab societies can't support democracy as we know it. And people get the government they deserve.
For us, Iraq's impending failure is an embarrassment. For the Iraqis — and other Arabs — it's a disaster the dimensions of which they do not yet comprehend. They're gleeful at the prospect of America's humiliation. But it's their tragedy, not ours.
That's not "the soft bigotry of low expectations." That's just bigotry. Does what happened in the American South after the Civil War prove that the South "can't support democracy as we know it?" No. Latin America has a number of rather solid democracies today that looked quite dubious 20 years ago. Israel didn't spring from 1948 a fully-formed democracy, to choose a Middle Eastern example.
What did all those places have that Iraq hasn't had? Years -- decades, in fact -- of relative peace, strong external support and internal cohesion. (Obviously, Israel had less of the first and more of the last.) Institutions that developed internally and indigenously. Functioning economies and national institutions.
For consistency's sake, I should point out that this is also why I'm dubious about Shadi's democracy-building agenda.
But it's sheer self-delusion to think that this all went astray because of the Iraqis, and not because of our failure to understand how difficult this would be for us and the Iraqis to pull off after all Iraq's existing institutions were destroyed -- an understanding that, in my opinion, should have led us not to try it in the first place.
I'm guessing that conservatives will go through a lot of this among themselves. That's not in itself a bad thing, but let's set the bar a little higher than this, shall we?
Besides, Ralph, if "people get the government they deserve," what does that say about you and me?
He does have one very thought-provoking line. I suspect it's an over-simplification, but one worth considering.
And contrary to the prophets of doom, the United States wouldn't be weakened by our withdrawal, should it come to that. Iraq was never our Vietnam. It's al-Qaeda's Vietnam. They're the ones who can't leave and who can't win.
** Addition 3pm: Just found this link to a CNN clip of House Majority Leader Boehner blaming... our generals! Who says defeat is an orphan?
An apology "to my fans" for my long absence from the site -- the good news is that there's been lots of work out there for progressives lately.