Politics & Policy

The Impatient Caucus

Have we forgotten that winning a war takes time?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the February 14, 2005, issue of National Review.

Reading the pages of foreign-policy journals, between the long tracts on Bush’s “failures” and those on neoconservative “arrogance,” one encounters mostly predictions of defeat in Iraq, laced with calls for phased withdrawal and–throughout–resounding criticism of the “botched” U.S. occupation and innuendos of petroleum imperialism.

Platitudes follow: “We can’t just leave now,” followed by no real advice on how a fascist society can be jump-started into a modern liberal republic. After all, there is no government handbook titled, “Operation 1A: How to remove a Middle East fascist regime, reconstruct the countryside, and hold the first elections in the nation’s history–all within two years.” The idea of perfection is always the enemy of improvement, as if American-sponsored reform were no better than what preceded it under a Noriega, Milosevic, the Taliban–or Saddam.

A great number of people who supported the war are now bailing out, on the pretext that their particular (but rarely detailed) version of the reconstruction was not followed: While a three-week war was of course their own idea, a 20-month messy reconstruction was surely someone else’s. Yesterday’s genius is today’s fool–and who knows next month, if and when the elections work? Witness post-bellum Afghanistan, where all those who recently said the victory was “lost” to warlords are now suddenly quiet…

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