Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Five Years, $600 Billion, 100,000+ Lives, and Countless Speeches
Has it really been five years? I remember - when only a year into the war - a senior Bush aide, with confident arrogance, deflected criticism from a NYT reporter, referring to it as criticism from the "reality-based community." He said, "That's not the way the world really works anymore....We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Well, I've studied - we've all studied - and the only new reality this administration has created is their own; a reality where lives are expendable, the truth is truncated, and where George Bush's speeches still have credibility. In George's reality, there is still a chance for Iraq - and some may still ask, "Well, isn't there? I thought the surge was working."
With history as my guide - and brevity as my objective - let me explain why there was never a chance to begin with - why countless scholars and Iraq experts warned us that such an effort would fail, as it had for the British.
In 1917, shortly after occupying Baghdad, the British Lieut. General Sir Stanley Maude declared to the people of Baghdad, "Our military operations have as their objective the defeat of the enemy, and the driving of him from these territories...but our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerers or enemies, but as liberators...Therefore I am commanded to invite you to...participate in the management of your civil affairs in collaboration with the political representatives of Great Britain who accompany the British Army..." It took nearly 40 years for the British to realize that their aspirations were in vain and to finally withdraw from Iraq after WWII. Upon their departure, the British-installed government was met with the all too familiar fate of past Iraqi governments and future ones to come: The coup d' tat.
There is not one instance in the nearly 100 years of Iraqi statehood in which the transfer of power between successive governments occurred in a bloodless and durable fashion. With the exception of Saddam (30+ years) and King Faysal (12 years), no other government lasted more than a decade - and all governments came and went via the coup d' tat. But why Saddam? How did he do it? Well, aside from killing any viable opposition, he established a process of "coup proofing" that, in a nutshell, involved overlapping the many security forces he had so that they were all being watched - and they were all watching - their counterparts. Apparently, it was quite effective.
But now that Saddam is history, what will come of the newly elected government of Iraq? And what will be the fate of Operation Iraqi Freedom? Optimistically speaking, suppose the "surge" works, violence dwindles, the Iraqi government reconciles their political differences to produce a functioning government, and the Iraqi security forces are now effective and have assumed the primary role in security operations, obviating the need for coalition forces. As U.S. forces inevitably leave Iraq (at the insistence of American and Iraqi domestic politics), will Iraq's government be confronted with the same fate as all its predecessors? As it happened when the British left, how can we be sure that it won't happen when the U.S. leaves?
At least one thing's sure, we won't find any answers in a speech given by George Bush.