In his poignant profile of Kanan Makiya, Dexter Filkins talks to Ayad Allawi. I found this helpful, if depressing:
Allawi tried as hard as any Iraqi to make a go of the new Iraq, and he is thoroughly disillusioned. He says he is resigned to the likelihood that Iraq will end up a sort of protectorate of the United States for the next several decades, not unlike the Philippines was for much of the 20th century dependent, violent, crippled.
Our decision to stay indefinitely in Iraq - made last month - makes this scenario the likeliest, no? If we do not enlarge the war to Iran, that is. My concern is that a permanent occupation of the place has even more unintended consequences - the constant danger of enraging the Muslim word that even a perfectly-run occupation would risk; the moral corruption from policing what is in many pockets a barbaric place packed with barbaric actors; the enormous costs required to keep the ungrateful volcano from constant eruption; and the near-impossibility of any sectarian reconciliation to the point of a viable nation-state for the foreseeable future.
Even if we manage to contain violence and genocide to less grotesque levels than last winter, our measurement of what is acceptable keeps being defined downwards. To do all of this primarily to ensure stability in an energy resource that we need to wean ourselves from makes the entire project close to farcical. Maybe it was doomed from the start, as Makiya now suspects. But it is good to see exactly where we are: on the eve of decades of neo-colonial management. It's a classic case of late imperial decline.
Morally, the cost-benefit ratio has shifted as well. Would Saddam have murdered as many innocents as have perished under American occupation? It is becoming a more even match, isn't it? And would the United States have lost its moral leadership without the torture tactics adopted across the war theater in Iraq? The answer is yes: torture was authorized before the Iraq invasion. But using it in Iraq, against Muslims and in Saddam's own prisons, deepened the stain. With every day we stay on, the day we leave recedes from view. We will, I think, never leave. A Clinton presidency would be the means that half the country is reconciled to that fact. Which is why the neocons will come to terms with it. And she with them.
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