Some random thoughts on Iraq from readers’ mail:
Might U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton have been given a unanimous vote from the Senate confirmation committee-had he only assured senators that America was not winning in Iraq?
Another reader wrote recently, inquiring why is it that a defeated Saddam easily put down insurrectionists in March 1991 and restored “order”, while we the victors now cannot. I suggested he ask either Sen. Jay Rockefeller or Sec. General Kofi Annan who have both implied, in various ways, that Iraq was better off under Saddam.
But there is a paradox — a militarily strong U.S. that abhors the savage methods that a weakened Saddam used to put down Shiite and Kurdish nationalists, and rightly refuses to employ such tactics in subduing terrorists and jihadist killers, is both criticized as Saddam-like (cf. Sen. Kennedy’s comments about Abu Ghraib), and yet pilloried for being impotent for not restoring order. The only constant is that whatever the US does is seen as wrong.
It seems that the serial hysteria that engulfs Washington (whether Dick Cheney’s shotgun or Marc Foley’s email) has now concluded that Iraq is a goner, and therefore only those who reaffirm that canard can be expected to be judged wise and sober.
But while we scream, there are still the events on the ground that go on obliviously: the Iraqi government continues, the jihadists have not taken over the country or advanced a comprehensive agenda that captures popular support, and the U.S. military is constantly changing tactics. Vietnam is evoked constantly, but 1974-5 seems the only proper referent, when ten years of terrible sacrifice that led to an autonomous South Vietnam were abruptly thrown away by failure to aid and fund the anti-communists. Before the mythical lemmings run headlong over the cliff they should stop and consider carefully whether Iraq really is a hopeless fiasco, or in fact can be saved, and saved in such a fashion that 10 years from now the creation in the heart of the ancient caliphate of a consensual government in lieu of Saddam’s Murder, Inc. will be considered a rare moral achievement.