Krauthammer: Half-Right

I confidently predict that the following phrase will become the new neoconservative mantra on Iraq:

We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war.

And the truth is: it isn't untrue. Blaming the U.S. entirely for the deep ethnic divides and profound sectarian hatreds in Iraq is preposterous. But speaking of the civil war in Iraq as if the Bush administration had nothing to do with it is equally preposterous. Even the most optimistic of pro-war thinkers were aware of the potential for sectarian warfare once Saddam had been deposed. I remember writing for a long time after the invasion that we should be happy that the most likely thing had not yet happened: a civil war. So we knew it was a risk; and we knew we had to act quickly to prevent it. We didn't. As the insurgency took shape, Dick Cheney was more interested in smearing Joe Wilson than in preventing an incipient civil war. Moreover, the invading army has a moral responsibility to maintain order. What Charles ignores is how complete anarchy is the oxygen necessary for civil war to spark into a conflagration. When there is no central authority, people immediately seek security from their family, tribe or faith-community. By refusing to send enough troops to maintain order, the Bush administration provided the timber, fuel and context for a sectarian fire. No, they didn't strike the match. But their negligence gave Zarqawi his opening. And he took advantage of it. Zarqawi won this war - because Bush was too clueless and arrogant to win it (and Bush didn't kill Zarqawi when he had a clear chance).

Recall also how patient the Shia in Iraq were for so long. Constantly goaded by Sunni terrorists and al Qaeda, they tolerated attacks for three years before snapping around a year ago, after the Samarra mosque bombing. So sorry, Charles. If you think you can get the Bush administration off the hook for the past four years and blame everything on Arab pathologies, you're dreaming.