A lot of people are e-mailing about this. It’s almost all over, he says. And it’s almost all our fault.
A preview of the next (and last) stage of the debate over the war: how much blame does Bush deserve for how things have turned out? As with most other subjects these days, the responses will track ideology. The right will say “some, but not much,” the centrists will say “most,” and the left will say “every last bit and then some.” A better way to ask the question would be, was Iraq destined to turn out this way or could it have succeeded if Bush had done a better job? To this day I’m not sure what the prevailing opinion among the left is on that subject. I pressed KP, who’s against the war, about it a few weeks ago and she thought it was doomed from the outset — not because Bush is a chimp but because you simply can’t impose liberal democracy by force. “What about Germany?” I asked her. “They were democratic before Hitler,” she said, so we weren’t really imposing it. “What about Japan?” I said. Weren’t they basically a feudal society that moved directly towards militarism when they modernized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Didn’t we force them to give women the vote? “Well,” she said, “women are still treated pretty badly in Japanese society.” (Update: See below.)
The debate pretty much ended at that point. Anyway, here’s Peters:
Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise. Even six months ago, there was hope. Now the chances for a democratic, unified Iraq are dwindling fast. The country’s prime minister has thrown in his lot with al-Sadr, our mortal enemy. He has his eye on the future, and he’s betting that we won’t last. The police are less accountable than they were under Saddam. Our extensive investment in Iraqi law enforcement only produced death squads. Government ministers loot the country to strengthen their own factions. Even Iraq’s elections — a worthy experiment — further divided Iraq along confessional and ethnic lines. Iraq still exists on the maps, but in reality it’s gone. Only a military coup — which might come in the next few years — could hold the artificial country together.
This chaos wasn’t inevitable. While in Iraq late last winter, I remained soberly hopeful. Since then, the strength of will of our opponents — their readiness to pay any price and go to any length to win — has eclipsed our own. The valor of our enemies never surpassed that of our troops, but it far exceeded the fair-weather courage of the Bush administration.
Yet, for all our errors, we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to build a rule-of-law democracy. They preferred to indulge in old hatreds, confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption. It appears that the cynics were right: Arab societies can’t support democracy as we know it. And people get the government they deserve.
For us, Iraq’s impending failure is an embarrassment. For the Iraqis — and other Arabs — it’s a disaster the dimensions of which they do not yet comprehend.
Jalal Talabani wants U.S. troops there for possibly three more years.
Comments are open at the end of Peters’ column in case you feel the urge. The very first one gives you a reliable snapshot of nutroots opinion on the subject. Meanwhile, a distant cousin of the question of who’s to blame is whether anything — anything — good at all has come from the war. Again, answers will track ideology, which explains Haw Haw’s responses during this Sky News interview from earlier today. Note that he denies having ever praised Saddam; Wikiquote, citing his meeting with the dictator in 1994, begs to differ. Galloway has since claimed that when he said, “your courage, your strength, your indefatigability,” he was referring to the Iraqi people collectively, not to Saddam.
No word on what he meant, though, when he allegedly said, “And I want you to know that we are with you, hatta al-nasr, hatta al-nasr, hatta al-Quds.” I.e., “until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem.”
Update: KP’s history might be better than mine. Reader Ito e-mails from Japan:
Have to take exception with this thought though, to wit–” I said. Weren’t they basically a feudal society that moved directly towards militarism when they modernized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?” That’s a real deficient understanding of Japanese society and especially what happened during the move from feudalism to modernity in the late 19th century and into the 20th century. Japan had a very successful democracy up until about 1931, but with the assassination of Prime Minister Hamaguchi it was all down-hill. But, hey, including America, and especially Europe where was it not going downhill in the 1930’s?… What happened in Japan post-war was less about an imposition of revolutionary thought by America on Japan, and more about the Japanese simply remembering what had been and where things had been headed up until the bullies took over. America was extremely generous and helpful (and unhelpful too– ever read our Constitution, esp. the preamble and Art. 9?) in that post-war period, don’t get me wrong, but it would be a mistake to imagine Japan was dragged into a constitutional democracy.
Update: KP says I’ve misrepresented her. For one thing, while she opposed the war, she’s never called it a “failure” or supported immediate withdrawal. I didn’t think I’d implied that she had, but if anyone got that impression, consider it corrected. For another thing, she says, I made it sound like she didn’t appreciate the difference American victory in WWII had made to Japanese society. I didn’t mean to; all I was suggesting in quoting her was the split in opinion among left and right re: the feasibility of transforming another people’s culture.
Update: Ace fears we’ve placed ourselves on the frog’s back beside the scorpion.