Losing Iraq II

In Hitch's words, there was never a more valiant supporter of regime change in Iraq than Peter Galbraith. Like many of us repelled by the tyranny of Saddam and concerned about the possibility of WMDs in the hands of terrorists, Galbraith supported the war. He now sees, as I think we now are all Fiasco forced to acknowledge, that the only hope for a half-way stable Iraq in the near term is among the Kurds. The Iraqi civil war - enabled and abetted by Bush's, Cheney's and Rumsfeld's criminal negligence and arrogance - is unstoppable now. Every window of opportunity we have had has been squandered. The fundamental mismatch between extraordinary ends and cheap, half-assed, brutal means has led us to this impasse.

The great danger is that withdrawal could mean the establishment of an al Qaeda redoubt in the Sunni regions and a Shiite enclave in the South, allied with Iran. Given the empirical data from Iraq, it seems profoundly unlikely that we can stop the latter. But we might be able to forestall the former, by air-power and a base among the Kurds. I'd like to read a more through analysis of Galbraith's argument - especially the risks it entails. But it is the most realistic proposal I've read in a while - and deserves serious consideration. Given the manifest negligence of the president and defense secretary, who can have any confidence in a more ambitious strategy? They are the architects of a fiasco far more dangerous than Vietnam, and far more avoidable. Money quote from Michiko Kakutani's review of Thomas Ricks' new book, "Fiasco":

An after-action review from the Third Infantry Division underscores the Pentagon's paucity of postwar planning, stating that "there was no guidance for restoring order in Baghdad, creating an interim government, hiring government and essential services employees, and ensuring that the judicial system was operational." And an end-of-tour report by a colonel assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority memorably summarized his office's work as "pasting feathers together, hoping for a duck."

Observing this, many of us have gone from denial to despair to grim hope to acceptance that the scale of the task was greater than even the pessimists foresaw and the means deployed to achieve it almost pathetically unequal to the goal. I guess a miracle may eventually emerge. Maybe a de facto Iraqi partition after more bloodshed and sectarian massacres may pave the way for a more peaceful future. We can hope. But Baghdad is fast turning into what Beirut once was - a cualdron of unrestrained sectarian hate and violence, fomented by a few empowered by the incompetence in Washington. I'm left with contrition at my own small contribution to the misunderstanding; and abiding, deep, and furious anger at the administration who conducted this war with such arrogance and negligence. This president's betrayal of the Iraqis, his betrayal of the armed forces, his betrayal of those who supported him, is profound. Some of his supporters will forgive him. This much I'm sure of: History won't.