Sunday, December 10, 2006

Iraq: the last reality show

David Seaton's News Links
Frank Rich quotes Chuck Hagel,“The impending disaster in Iraq is unwinding at a rate that we can’t quite calibrate.” That is the phrase that sums up the situation best. When Bush invaded Iraq, he set in motion forces he could not foresee and never could control. In effect, he opened the gates of hell. The Middle East could be compared with the San Andreas fault: if it's quiet you have the West Coast, if it moves too much you don't. So many things hang on the price of oil and its free movement in a liberalized market place. So much of America's political and cultural life depend on the safety of Israel, that if oil and Israel are sufficiently and simultaneously jeopardized, we will be looking at the social equivalent of "the big one": that earthquake that all Californians know awaits them. Americans are fascinated by disasters because they have had so little experience of them. Giant gorillas, creatures from outer space, strange diseases: lines form around the block. Paranoia sells tickets. The last Americans who remember fear and hardship personally are the children of the great depression and there are not too many of them left. In most areas of the world if you haven't known catastrophe personally your family can tell you about it. An example: in the 1960s I had a Japanese friend my age, Takeo, whose father was a famous Tokyo architect,. Takeo was upper middle class to his fingertips: Takeo's older brother starved to death, in Tokyo, in 1945. Most families, rich and poor, around the world have stories like that. Americans live blessedly in a bubble; that bubble is about to burst. Look around you, enjoy this Christmas; breathe in its air like the air of the last day of summer. DS
Frank Rich - The Sunshine Boys Can’t Save Iraq - New York Times Abstract: In The Washington Post, David Broder gushingly quoted one member of the group, Alan Simpson, musing that “immigration, Social Security and all those other things that have been hung up for so long” might benefit from similar ex-officio bipartisanship. Only in Washington could an unelected panel of retirees pass for public-policy Viagra. Mr. Simpson notwithstanding, the former senator who most comes to mind is Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. In the early 1990’s he famously coined the phrase “defining deviancy down” to describe the erosion of civic standards for what constitutes criminal behavior. In 2006, our governmental ailment is defining reality down. “The Way Forward” is its apotheosis. This syndrome begins at the top, with the president, who has cut and run from reality in Iraq for nearly four years. His case is extreme but hardly unique. Take Robert Gates, the next defense secretary, who was hailed as a paragon of realism by Washington last week simply for agreeing with his Senate questioners that we’re “not winning” in Iraq. While that may be a step closer to candor than Mr. Bush’s “absolutely, we’re winning” of late October, it’s hardly the whole truth and nothing but. The actual reality is that we have lost in Iraq.(...) Its account of how the country Mr. Bush called a “grave and gathering danger” in September 2002 has devolved into a “grave and deteriorating” catastrophe today is unsparing and accurate. But everyone except the president knew this already, and that patina of realism evaporates once the report moves from diagnosis to prescription.cIts recommendations are bogus because the few that have any teeth are completely unattainable. Of course, it would be fantastic if additional Iraqi troops would stand up en masse after an infusion of new American military advisers. And if reconciliation among the country’s warring ethnicities could be mandated on a tight schedule. And if the Bush White House could be persuaded to persuade Iran and Syria to “influence events” for America’s benefit. It would also be nice if we could all break the bank in Vegas. The group’s coulda-woulda recommendations are either nonstarters, equivocations (it endorses withdrawal of combat troops by 2008 but is averse to timelines) or contradictions of its own findings of fact. To take just one example: Even if we could wave a magic wand and quickly create thousands more military advisers (and Arabic-speaking ones at that), there’s no reason to believe they could build a crack Iraqi army and police force where all those who came before have failed. As the report points out, the loyalties and capabilities of the existing units are suspect as it is. By prescribing such placebos, the Iraq Study Group isn’t plotting a way forward but delaying the recognition of our defeat. Its real aim is to enact a charade of progress to pacify the public while Washington waits, no doubt in vain, for Mr. Bush to return to the real world. (...) The Iraqi government’s ability to defend anything is so inoperative that the group’s members visited the country but once, with just one (Chuck Robb) daring to leave the Green Zone. The Bush-Maliki rendezvous 10 days ago was at the Four Seasons hotel in Amman. The only recommendations that might alter that reality, however evanescently, come not from “The Way Forward” but from its critics on the right who want significantly more troops and no withdrawal timetables whatsoever. But a Pentagon review leaked to The Washington Post three weeks ago estimates that a true counterinsurgency campaign would “require several hundred thousand additional U.S. and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police,” not the 20,000 or so envisioned as a short-term booster shot by John McCain. Since these troops don’t exist and there is no public support in either America or Iraq for mobilizing them, the president can’t satisfy the hawks even if he chooses to do so. Since he’s also dead set against a prompt withdrawal, we already know what his policy will be, no matter how many “reviews” he conducts. He will stay the course, with various fake-outs along the way to keep us from thinking we’ve “lost,” until the whole mess is deposited in the lap of the next president. But as Chuck Hagel said last week, “The impending disaster in Iraq is unwinding at a rate that we can’t quite calibrate.” It is yet another, even more reckless flight from reality to suppose that the world will stand still while we dally.(...) The members of the Iraq Study Group are all good Americans of proven service to their country. But to the extent that their report forestalls reality and promotes pipe dreams of one last chance for success in this fiasco, it will be remembered as just one more delusional milestone in the tragedy of our age. READ IT ALL (bootleg: hat to jurassicporc)

1 comment:

kelly said...

Sometimes I look out my window and see various neighbors walk by or wait for their bus...each have their stories of survival, of having to flee, starve, suffer. From the grandfather who was kept prisoner of war in Russia six year after WW2 ended and made it back on a bike... to the French lady who was nearly killed for marrying a German soldier... to the young Lebanese girl who limps to her apartment still with schrapnel in her hip... the Kurdish man who stares blankly, waits for the bus but never gets on, don't know his story, but he surely has one...my small German neighborhood could fill books with "reality"... and me, the American whose most traumatic experience was being raised by dysfunctional hippies. When it does eventually get uncomfortable for those living in America, who are they going to sue?