Saturday, August 19, 2006

The gamble for Iraq

The New Yorker has published an essay by Hendrik Hertzberg about President Bush's Iraq gamble. The news is not good when even Thomas L. Friedman, one of the war's Number One supporters, writes "It is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are baby-sitting a civil war."

It is in the nature of gambling that the gamble may lose. The dice have now been well and truly rolled, and they have come up snake eyes. The war’s sole real gain--the overthrow of the murderous Saddam Hussein regime--is mocked by the chaos and suffering that have overwhelmed millions of Iraqis, whose country is again a republic of fear. The concrete losses are horrific: nearly three thousand American and "coalition" troops killed; thousands more maimed; scores of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead; a third of a trillion dollars burned through. So are the less tangible ones: the unprecedented levels of anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world and Europe; the self-inflicted loss of America’s moral prestige; the neglect of real nuclear dangers, in Iran and North Korea, while chimeras were chased in Iraq. The neoconservative project of a friendly, democratic Middle East, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, is worse than a charred ruin—it is a flaming inferno.

Hertzberg points out that sixty percent of the American public now oppose the Iraq occupation, and that the majority of them do so because it has harmed, not helped, the larger struggle against those who would hurt them.

(Alas that the American public has not quite worked out yet that the biggest danger comes not from terrorists, but from the wolves in sheep's clothing who claim to be protecting them.)

Hertzberg observes that the alleged terrorists arrested in Britain were thwarted, not because of the Iraq occupation or the War on Terror, but because of the old-fashioned virtues of "dogged police work, lawful surveillance, and international coƶperation", and that it is precisely those virtues which have been hamstrung by the waste of manpower and materials in Iraq. As Hertzberg asks, "Why not change the game to one that relies less on gambling and bluff and more on wisdom, planning, and (in every sense) intelligence?"

Link via Echidne.

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