Sunday, July 08, 2007

Failed indeed


Today the New York Times finally announced magisterially:

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.

Well and good and about time -- and it is worth noting that they hedged on a hope of somehow keeping military bases in Iraq. That's a prescription for endless war, so they haven't quite got it yet.

Unhappily, folks who know more about Iraq than the editors of the Times (one suspects these gentlemen don't depend on the likes of Judy Miller and Michael Gordon for their information) point out that the quagmire is already deeper and stickier than the U.S. opinion makers are imagining. Robert Malley and Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group named the real problem Iraq now presents in the Boston Globe:

Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. But before and beyond that, Iraq has become a failed state -- a country whose institutions and, with them, any semblance of national cohesion, have been obliterated. That is what has made the violence -- all the violence: sectarian, anti coalition, political, criminal, and otherwise -- both possible and, for many, necessary. Resolving the confrontation between Sunni Arabs, Shi'ites, and Kurds is one priority. But rebuilding a functioning and legitimate state is another. ...

Can anyone think of a contemporary example of a "failed state," a place where governmental authority has collapsed completely, that righted itself? I can't. Afghanistan, Somalia, the Congo -- they don't get better; the violence and misery just drop off the front pages of the newspapers and their people keep dying.

Falling out of the headlines is the best likely result of our war on Iraq. More probably, the U.S. and neighboring states will keep making incursions into Iraq for a long time, acting "defensively" against the carnage we've unleashed.

Given the reality, the Times did get something right in its withdrawal editorial:

Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse.

The Bushies lied and said the U.S. could do its oil empire on the cheap. It was going to be easy.

Getting out is going to be messy and require clear thinking. It is going to demand the courage to look at the consequences of our arrogance because those consequences will blow back on us, minimally as higher oil prices and a further decayed domestic democracy, maximally as terrorism aimed a carrying the war to "the crusaders." Folks in the U.S. are not a bit prepared for such an honest look at the consequences of our rulers' folly. Now, if the Times could just give up peddling spin. ...

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