As the Bush administration lurches towards its end like some drunken psychopath finally fleeing the scene of a massacre, Mark Danner feels its time to do some stock taking
on the administration, Iraq and the "War on Terror." Mostly its the stuff you probably already knew, but it's a well-written piece by a man who has a good grasp of the details of the situation. Some highlights.
For the attention of John McCain
In this sense, many of the Bush administration's leading Iraq War backers comprised a kind of guerrilla force within the U.S. government, fighting against a longstanding strategic alignment in the Middle East. This guerrilla status, which defined many of the government's most knowledgeable Middle East hands as enemies to be isolated and ignored, helps to account, at least in part, for a great many of the extraordinary incompetencies and disasters of the war itself. That the roots of the war lie in stark opposition to established U.S. policy also helps explain the central conundrum of the current U.S. strategic position in Iraq and the Middle East. This was defined for me with typical concision and aplomb by Ahmed Chalabi in Baghdad last year. "The American tragedy in Iraq," said Chalabi, "is that your friends in Iraq are allied with your enemies in the region, and your enemies in Iraq are allied with your friends in the region."
Chalabi's concision and wit are admirable (and typical); but his point, once you look at the map, is obvious. The United States has made possible the rise to power in Iraq of a Shiite government which is allied with its major geopolitical antagonist in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran. And the United States has been fighting with great persistence and distinctly mixed results a Sunni insurgency which is allied with the Saudis, the Jordanians, and its other longtime friends among the traditional Sunni autocracies of the Gulf.
For those who still buy that whole "The surge is working and we can all leave soon" line:
At this moment, the Iraq War is at a stalemate. Confronted with a growing threat from those "enemies allied with its friends in the region," the Sunni insurgents, the Bush administration has adopted a practical and typically American strategy: it has bought them. The Americans have purchased the insurgency, hiring its foot soldiers at the rate of $300 per month. The Sunni fighters, once called insurgents, we now refer to as "tribesmen" or "concerned citizens."
This has isolated al-Qaeda, a tactical victory. But because these purchased Sunni fighters have not been accepted by the Shiite government -- the allies of our enemies -- the United States has set in motion a policy that will require, to keep violence at current levels, its own permanent presence in the country. This at a time when two in three Americans think the war was a mistake and when both surviving Democrat candidates vow to begin bringing the troops home "on day one" of a Democratic administration.
I am so depressed now.