Feb 27, 2007 4:53 pm


It has been a while since I wrote about Iraq. I simply had nothing new to say and there were plenty of people saying it. The US/Bush administration made huge mistakes. Richard Perle enumerates the most important ones in a recent interview with Newsmax and I complained about them at the time. Moreover, democracies cannot order their civilian employees to go where they do not wish to go and, hence, its nation building ability especially under adverse circumstances is very limited. The ongoing failings of the state department in Iraq are a case in point.

That means that what the US can do best is throw out the bad guys thereby enable their replacement with elected guys. The rest depends on the local people. As we have seen in Germany after World War I, feuding elected guys can throw away their chance at freedom. Germany got a second chance, took advantage of it and the entire European continent is the obvious beneficiary. Of course, Germany was not transformed alone. It was part of a regional transformation. Richard Cohen is right. Europe should celebrate the 50th anniversary of the EU but it would be a real ingrate if it does not invite its enabler, the US, to the party.

Iraq is getting a second chance. Tom Friedman understandably complains about the price Americans and Iraqis have to pay for not getting it right in the first place. But it should be remembered that Iraq even now is not getting the chance Germany got. It is getting more the chance a post Petain France would have gotten with Hitler and Mussolini as neighbors. Let's hope Iraq can do it and that the price is going to be much lower than the one the world paid for Germany's do over. After all, Iran and the new Sunni Islamist totalitarians are still hovering in the background. If not, the efforts to minimize the price may just end up again raising it. If so, Bush will learn the same painful lesson FDR did. After all, he told Munich bound Chamberlain not to count on American support if he stood up to Hitler.

Ultimately, both FDR and Bush responded to a just electorate demand that strategic goals be achieved with minimal expense in life and treasure. In that light trying to remake the ME by creating an Iraqi model rather than tackling the entire region as was done in post WWII Europe seemed eminently reasonable even if it proves to have been overly optimistic and extremely costly.

If Iraq fails, Bush's successors leave it to its fate as they did Vietnam once they find an alternative way to defeat the new totalitarianism. Given the pre-world war I reminiscent atmosphere in Asia, the stakes of getting it right could not be higher.

comments powered by Disqus