Ralph Peters: Iraq’s last gasp

posted at 4:19 pm on November 2, 2006 by Allahpundit

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.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Puritan,

Comparing WWII to the Iraq war is misleading. After Pearl Harbor the country was united in the struggle against fascism and while there were dissenters, it was almost universally agreed war was the only option. This was much the same sentiment after 9/11 and the country was mostly united in the invasion of Afghanistan. Under these circumstances, opposition boiled down to disputes over tactics and policy but not motivation. Now that we can look at it with some hindsight, it is clear from the beginning that Iraq was sold to the public based on exaggerations, assumptions, and distorted facts. Under these circumstances, opposition is destined to be bitter and hostile; especially when these exaggerations and distortions are brought to light and the war in question is almost universally deemed a fiasco.

Has the left let their bitterness and resentment get the better of them and somewhat naively embraced aspects of the terrorist agenda? I would say yes. But at the same time, George W. Bush, the great uniter, has used fear and division and worked to almost push the left into the arms of the enemy. When the right implies that a vote for democrats is a vote for terrorists, what is the left to do? Having our patriotism openly questioned and repeatedly being called traitors clearly only works to make us more bitter and resentful which in neither good for the country nor the war. Unlike you however, I believe in personal responsibility. I don’t blame Bush for this, I blame the democrats who don’t have the balls to call Bush out on these ridiculous accusations, declare their firm support for America and against terrorism, while still maintaining their progressive ideals and their disdain for this administration’s failed war policies.

JaHerer22 on November 3, 2006 at 11:29 AM

Now that we can look at it with some hindsight, it is clear from the beginning that Iraq was sold to the public based on exaggerations, assumptions, and distorted facts.

Where have we heard this before? Bush Lied.

Under these circumstances, opposition is destined to be bitter and hostile; especially when these exaggerations and distortions are brought to light and the war in question is almost universally deemed a fiasco.

universally = MSM

When the right implies that a vote for democrats is a vote for terrorists, what is the left to do?

Defend their position by proving otherwise, and stop with the Bush lied, people died mantra.

I don’t blame Bush for this, I blame the democrats who don’t have the balls to call Bush out on these ridiculous accusations

You’re kidding right? The left hasn’t called Bush on his “fear and division”, his “divider not a uniter”? We’ll hell man, you just did in your post, sounding just like every lib and MSM reporter west of the Jersey coast. What planet have you been living on?

declare their firm support for America and against terrorism, while still maintaining their progressive ideals

Round peg, square hole. Can’t do both.

fogw on November 3, 2006 at 11:48 AM

square peg, round hole. Dang it.

fogw on November 3, 2006 at 11:52 AM

Hmm, kinda sounds like something that took place, oh, say 230 years ago.

Well I have been thinking about this whole idea of revolutions and what then transpires. I think you can make a case that the overthrow of a tyrannical gov’t–think Russian and French revolutions–is often followed by a bloody civil war. In the case of our country–well that was a revolution in the strict sense, in that it was a throwing off of a colonial gov’t, and one that had fostered (local) democracy. And of course there is the school of thought that says a civil war did follow our war for independence, it was just deferred 70 years.

What’s that old saw about those who are ignorant of history?

honora on November 3, 2006 at 12:23 PM

Above should read: “…well that was not a revolution in the strict sense”

honora on November 3, 2006 at 12:33 PM

You’re kidding right? The left hasn’t called Bush on his “fear and division”, his “divider not a uniter”? We’ll hell man, you just did in your post, sounding just like every lib and MSM reporter west of the Jersey coast. What planet have you been living on?

You’re right, in that my words don’t articulate my argument very well. Of course the left has called Bush out on his fear and division propaganda, but, and I’m almost sure you will agree with me here, their criticism has been superficial, unproductive, unable to offer a legitimate alternative, and fueled by hate and bitterness instead of thoughtful advice and constructive criticism. I blame the left for being unable to design and articulate valid alternatives, while allowing their resentment to push them to petty personal attacks. There is enough wrong with Iraq if the most productive criticism you can articulate is “Bush lied, people died” you need to try a little harder. The left is also wrong for allowing the right to perpetuate the “democrats support terrorists” mantra. This is so skewed and ridiculous and clearly rejected by the majority of Americans who appear poised to elect a wave of Democrats that failing to loudly and often denounce it is just bad politics.

declare their firm support for America and against terrorism, while still maintaining their progressive ideals
Round peg, square hole. Can’t do both.

If you really believe this it is a sad day for America and democracy.

JaHerer22 on November 3, 2006 at 1:02 PM

JaHere22,

You’re lengthy first paragraph points out all of the mistakes the Democrats make in the battle of ideologies.

their criticism has been superficial, unproductive, unable to offer a legitimate alternative, and fueled by hate and bitterness instead of thoughtful advice

One can conclude then, that their progressive ideals are seriously flawed. Maintaining flawed ideals just seems like a lousy choice to me.

We shall soon see if the majority of Americans will elect a wave of Democrats.

fogw on November 3, 2006 at 1:35 PM

I guess then that is our main point of dissension: you conclude the ideals are flawed and I conclude the ideals are noble and those trying to articulate and implement those ideals are flawed.

Let me ask you this: Do you also believe the neocon ideals that led to the invasion and subsequent difficulties in Iraq are flawed? Or do you believe those ideals are noble and the individuals implementing and interpreting those ideals are flawed?

JaHerer22 on November 3, 2006 at 1:49 PM

…you left this statement incomplete. You forgot to add, “…AND WE’RE BETRAYING IT AS FAST AS WE CAN. (signed) DEMOCRATIC PARTY”.
Puritan1648 on November 3, 2006 at 8:33 AM

Translation: “So let’s allow the terrorists kill as many Americans as they can, it won’t make any difference.”
JackM on November 3, 2006 at 9:37 AM

Fun! When someone’s words don’t fit your twisted, paranoid worldview, add your own! Makes it all better.

Constantine on November 3, 2006 at 1:51 PM

Let me ask you this: Do you also believe the neocon ideals that led to the invasion and subsequent difficulties in Iraq are flawed? NO, neocon ideals had nothing to do with it, 3000 dead Americans did.

Or do you believe those ideals are noble and the individuals implementing and interpreting those ideals are flawed? NO, I’m not a liberal trying to burn the candle at both ends.

fogw on November 3, 2006 at 1:57 PM

I’m disapointed fogw, I thought maybe we were putting aside partisan differences and getting to the root of the problems. You know, engaging in constructive dialoge, admitting each side’s shortcomings, trying to find common ground. But then…

NO, neocon ideals had nothing to do with it, 3000 dead Americans did.

Hasn’t it been universially concluded there were no WMDs, Sadam had no part in 9/11, etc., etc., etc…

Let me guess…it’s all MSM hype, we just haven’t found the WMDs yet, …

I quit.

JaHerer22 on November 3, 2006 at 2:18 PM

Ok I butchered that whole quote thing but you get the idea.

JaHerer22 on November 3, 2006 at 2:19 PM

Fun! When someone’s words don’t fit your twisted, paranoid worldview, add your own! Makes it all better.

Translation: My phony baloney liberal facade isn’t fooling anybody.

JackM on November 3, 2006 at 3:01 PM

Comment pages: 1 2