Strange New Respect

Jim Henley and Scott Lemieux are feeling it for Paul Bremer after reading his Washington Post self-defense article. Personally, my sympathy for Bremer goes down whenever he publishes anything. I think Bremer has essentially been turned into a scapegoat for very broad intellectual errors and policy mistakes that affected a wide swathe of the American elite from 2002-2005. Rather than acknowledge that this is what happened; that certain stupendously wrong ideas gained widespread adherence in the two years after 9/11, there's been an enormous willingness to believe that, hey, no, everything's fine, it's just that Paul Bremer and Donald Rumsfeld are really dumb.

The trouble with trying to defend Bremer from this unfair position, however, is that every time he opens his mouth he's refusing to adopt the only really viable defense he has -- that he was the fall guy for a doomed enterprise. It's not that disbanding the Iraqi Army wasn't an error, it's just that having done things the other way 'round wouldn't have produced the desired unified, democratic, and yet willing to be used as a platform for US power-projection throughout the region Iraq that Bremer was supposed to produce. He wound up making pro-chaos decisions because the country had, as a matter of national policy, chosen to adopt unrealistic and incoherent -- yet strangely vague -- war aims. The only real blunder Bremer made was agreeing to take the job under those circumstances.