I hadn't read much of blogger/writer/analyst Thomas Barnett before a reader sent me his way. This post strikes me as a remarkably candid and persuasive account of why we should not give up in Iraq. In transforming a post-totalitarian, ethnically divided, economically ruined pseudo-country, we cannot expect instant results. I don't think anyone now seriously doubts that we made huge errors in the beginning and that the Bush administration was far too cocky and intransigent for at least two years. (One more time: Fire Rumsfeld Now.) But so many of the U.S. military have performed amazing work; so many other good people have contributed to this enormous project; and this endeavor is far too important to get swallowed up by domestic posturing. Let's just agree that Bush screwed up. But let's not forget either:
Saying we 'lost the war' in Iraq is simply saying 'I want a return to the old days of the Powell Doctrine,' which only got us 9/11 and the rising Occidentalism of the Salafis who think American 'staying power' is defined by helicopters fleeing over the horizon with their tail rotors between their legs.
The Powell Doctrine was perfect for the old Neocons, because it was a strategy of limited regret, limited impact, limited success and guaranteed long-term reliance on military arms to do nothing more than maintain a declining status quo.
But the Bushies went beyond those limitations on Iraq, which I thought and still think was completely necessary. Yes, it exposed a lot of bad thinking, bad planning, bad force structure, bad doctrine, bad operations, etc. in the U.S. military, but all those exposures have led to necessary change--and change long-delayed at that.
Barnett, however, is open-minded about the possibilities of our current moment, and even thinks John Kerry's ideas are worth considering. I still think that a Kerry administration would have been able to move this endeavor forward more effectively than the incompetents who helped screw it up. But we are where we are. And I'm not in any mood to throw in the towel or to give up on the only president we have for three years. Barnett helps explain why.
Update: Tom Barnett responds. I had no idea we were together at Harvard.
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