Iraq . . .
The problem, in a paragraph-shaped nutshell, as described by George Packer in The New Yorker:
It is true that the presence of American troops is a source of great tension and violence in Iraq, and that overwhelming numbers of Iraqis want them to leave. But it is also true that wherever American troop levels have been reduced–in Falluja and Mosul in 2004, in Tal Afar in 2005, in Baghdad in 2006–security has deteriorated. In the absence of adequate and impartial Iraqi forces, Sunni insurgents or Shiite militias have filled the power vacuum with a reign of terror. An American withdrawal could produce the same result on a vast scale. That is why so many Iraqis, after expressing their ardent desire to see the last foreign troops leave their country, quickly add, “But not until they clean up the mess they made.” And it is why a public-service announcement scrolling across the bottom of the screen during a recent broadcast on an Iraqi network said, “The Ministry of Defense requests that civilians not comply with the orders of the Army or police on nightly patrols unless they are accompanied by coalition forces working in that area.”
I know that I don’t know what the solution is. I think “bring the troops home now” is irresponsible. And nobody likes “stay the course” either, any more, which is a good thing: we need to get our collective brainpower together to find some less-bad solution to the mess. I like the idea of a regional conference that includes Iran and Syria that points out to these countries that while they may have been viewing the present power vacuum as an opportunity to “influence” the future shape of their neighbor, that they risk a great deal if Iraq collapses, and they have civil war next door, which brings at least masses of refugees and at worst, ethnic or religious militias across the border. All of Iraq’s neighbors are already feeling the stress between autocracy and modernity, and regional “stability” is certainly the foremost interest of the ruling parties, and my hunch is that stability (versus disintegration) is also a prerequisite for eventual reform.
But that is only a starting point. Bush has two years left, and history is going to judge him most on what happened in Iraq. I dislike George Bush, but I do hope he can get his shit together enough to really diligently apply himself to finding a better solution to this impossible problem. If we pull off something cool, I am happy for history to smile upon him, deserved or not.
At least we fired . . . er “resigned” Rumsfeld. That is a hopeful indication . . . I very much wish the best for the Iraqi people, and for our own soldiers, who have voluntarily made very great personal sacrifices to be deployed there these past several years. I have a feeling that while history may yet smile upon George Bush, it will be a little while longer before history recognizes the real heroes. It will likely be a few decades before the National Mall has an Iraq War Memorial, and before that is erected, I hope at least the Iraqi people can erect a legitimate form of self-government; They deserve peace, security, and freedom, and they owe a debt of human triumph for the thousands of damaged families in Iraq and in the United States, that have suffered deaths and other tragedies in this war.
And it is to these people who have suffered in this war that George Bush, and his legacy, owe the greatest debt. I hope the president can find the best way to pay up.