Sunday, May 09, 2004

Two to chew on

A pair of articles stimulate some conversation on the direction we're headed, and where the neocon chatter is headed:

First, Fareed Zakaria says in his Newsweek column, The Price of Arrogance:

Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq—troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani—Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world.

Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I'm sure he takes full responsibility.

So he sounds pretty against where the war has brought us. But he doesn't seem against the war itself. He wasn't when it started (Why It's Now or Never With Iraq by Fareed Zakaria). It will be interesting to watch the neocon decision makers and supportive commentators who helped get us here. Those who speak now condemning the war who said nothing at the start stand to cleanse themselves of their initial sins. It's kind of sad, if you think about it. They can line up shoulder to shoulder with those who've opposed the war from the beginning and just trust that forgetful minds will rule the day.

Turning from commentary to reporting, here's a Washington Post article on the shocking thought that maybe we aren't winning hearts and minds after all:

Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq.

Their major worry is that the United States is prevailing militarily but failing to win the support of the Iraqi people. That view is far from universal, but it is spreading and being voiced publicly for the first time.

You see, tactically, we're winning all over the place. But tactics are only good so far as they go. If the underlying strategy is faulty, then the best victory you get is pyrrhic, right? That's not flag-waving worthy. Not for my country. Not for my flag.

Even those closest to the conflict are having doubts. Tale this very model of a modern major general, "the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq:"

"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."

And this isn't the only military man voicing concern. Read the article - there are many, many more, all saying the same thing. We came in with no idea of how to get out. What does Wolfowitz say?

"There's no question that we're facing some difficulties," Wolfowitz said. "I don't mean to sound Pollyannaish -- we all know that we're facing a tough problem." But, he said, "I think the course we've set is the right one, which is moving as rapidly as possible to Iraqi self-government and Iraqi self-defense."

Pollyannaish? You may not mean it, but you sound it, and it works better with and on ten year old ringlet-ed girls. Steak and ice cream for all! Things aren't so bad.

"Like a lot of senior Army guys, I'm quite angry" with Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush administration, the young general said. He listed two reasons. "One is, I think they are going to break the Army." But what really incites him, he said, is, "I don't think they care."

And that's the biggest problem. They don't care. To them, soldiers, young white, brown, and black men and women are just exclamation points, emphasis to apply to their message, their goals, their wild-eyed crusade for . . . well, something.

But perhaps the best example of how misguided the powers that be are comes at the end of the article. When asked about the "antagonism" of military types, Wolfowitz says: "I wish they'd have the -- whatever it takes -- to come tell me to my face."

HE is called those in uniform facing down death in a desert cowards?

He said that by contrast, he had been "struck at how many fairly senior officers have come to me" to tell him that he and Rumsfeld have made the right decisions concerning the Army.

You know, I read about those kinds of senior officers. Yesmen, I believe they are called. It's bad to start buying your own press, sir.

Who still believes these men? They refuse to see what's going on. They're more content to talk than listen. See no evil. They hear no evil. But they continue to speak evil.

Now it's time for those who see their Big Ideas failing and bleeding all over to scamper about for cover and cleansing. Many will succeed because we aren't doing enough to hold them accountable.

The only thing we can do is - to quote a rapper, of all things - "read more, write more, save the globe."

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