I started to write this yesterday but got sidetracked with photomania. Which was fortuitous. The smell coming from Connecticut today adds atmosphere, and besides — we’ve got a theme going here.
Pessimism about the war is as bad right now as I’ve ever seen it. And I don’t mean just Iraq, and I don’t mean just among the general public. I mean the whole war, even among hardcore lock-and-load “let’s roll” hawks. Check out this murderers’ row.
It bears repeating, despite the incredible progress that has been made in Iraq; we are in great peril of losing the war entirely. Having seen and reported on how it doesn’t have to end this way, because there are units and leaders in our military who know how to succeed in Iraq, who have won the peace for communities once considered as dangerous as Baghdad, I have always maintained a hope of the eventual success of the mission citing conditions on the ground as justification. Unfortunately, given what we have for information sources, now may have passed. Now could be yesterday, or last month, or even last year. Now it may be too late.
Grim at Blackfive:
I suspect that we will one day speak of the war in Iraq the way we speak of the Spanish Civil War — that is, rarely by comparison to the greater war that followed it. Peace is not in the cards. Things are going to get worse. Our enemies are glad to employ terrorists, who will try to bring the war to our homes. The wise man will prepare his sword, and the arm that may wield it.
[W]hile, all things being equal, people surely prefer to live in freedom than under a dictatorship, culture ensures that things are never equal. Someone living in a tribal or traditional culture will view the world differently, and have different values, than an atomized individual in the West. He might value sexual purity more than freedom, thus insisting on the repression of women. He might value his religious conviction that all of the Levant should be Muslim-controlled over freedom and life itself. He might hate the dishonor of foreign occupation more than he loves anything.
For all these reasons, Hezbollah seems to have a better understanding of human hearts, at least in its part of the world, than the president of the Unites States does.
[M]ost people would like the Middle East to be free and happy and prosperous and free of incomprehensible religious differences (Sunni, Shiite, Sufi – help us out, guys; do they all have to start with S?) and generally off the radar. Thirty years of hearing Death to the Great Satan, however, hasn’t left the average American mad. It’s left them bored. It’s left them disinterested in the final consequences to the societies in which the chanting mobs appear. They don’t care. And as I said, that may have more injurious consequences than Disappointed Engagement or Active Animus. The former leads to withdrawal; the latter leads to rash plans quickly nixed when the anger cools.
A nation that no longer cares about what happens Over There is a nation, I think, that has already made its peace, however subconsciously, with a horrible conclusion.
He doesn’t specify what he means by “horrible conclusion,” but I think we’re all on the same page. No less a personage than Bernard Lewis believes Iran might have something big planned for two weeks from now. Perhaps Mike Wallace thought to ask Ahmadinejad about it yesterday when he interviewed him for 60 Minutes, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Why the despair and why now? Because, I think, of Israel’s predicament in Lebanon. Until last month, it could plausibly be argued that most problems in the war on terror (read: most problems in Iraq and Afghanistan) were the result of Bush’s mismanagement. Which, for conservatives, is hugely depressing in one way but hugely comforting in another: if your big problem is personnel, the solution is simple enough. All in due time. But if your problem is strategic, that’s not so easy. A lot of hawks, me included, have near-blind faith that Jewish genius and resilience will always carry Israel through when it’s beset by its enemies, but even the invincible IDF doesn’t seem to be making much headway against the jihad. From yesterday’s JPost:
According to intelligence information, the Hizbullah command-and-control array is still functioning even after nearly four weeks of fighting. So are the logistical command centers – still operating and succeeding in directing the smuggling of weapons into Lebanon from Syria.
The officer said that Hizbullah still had the ability to fire short-range rockets, of which the guerrilla group has already fired 2,500 since the beginning of the war.
That number’s now 3,333. According to the American Thinker, one of the reasons Hezbollah’s command and control array is still functioning is because its center is untouched. The Israelis are sufficiently frustrated that they effectively relieved their top commander in Lebanon last night and replaced him with a new one in hopes that he’ll have better luck.
To paraphrase my pal Rick Moran, it is getting awfully late in the day not to have a winning strategy against Islamist militias. At the moment, neither America nor Israel seems able to find one. Or maybe they have and they’re simply unwilling, for whatever reason, to commit the resources needed to effectuate it. Either way, we’re running out of cavalry here. Meanwhile, the moderates in the region are telling Bush not to make them choose between liberalization and tribalism; the Lebanese prime minister who’s supposedly going to disarm Nasrallah is crying like a Hollywood finocchio, to borrow a term from “The Godfather”; and both U.S. and Iraqi officials appear to have suddenly become alarmingly obsequious to Muqtada al-Sadr now that Shiism’s on the march in Lebanon.
Unless John Howard’s got something ingenious cooking in Australia, this is shaping up to be a long-term stalemate. At best. And at worst, a Lileksian “horrible conclusion.”