The Corner

“This Mounting Debacle”

Robert Kagan has a useful Iraq op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post. Two key passages.

One describes in very forthright language the kind of job the Bush administration has been doing there lately: “All but the most blindly devoted Bush supporters can see that Bush administration officials have no clue about what to do in Iraq tomorrow, much less a month from now. Consider Fallujah: One week they’re setting deadlines and threatening offensives; the next week they’re pulling back. The latest plan, naming one of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard generals to lead the pacification of the city, is the kind of bizarre idea that only desperate people can conjure. The Bush administration is evidently in a panic, and this panic is being conveyed to the American people.”

The other is a good defense of how some sort of democratic government in a unified Iraq still needs to be our goal: “The next time someone suggests that the goal of democracy is too ambitious, let him explain in detail what alternative he has in mind. Even if we wanted to establish a non-democratic government in Iraq, how would we do it? Is there a benevolent dictator out there who could enjoy sufficient legitimacy or wield sufficient power to maintain stability in Iraq without continued U.S. military support? Even a reconstituted, Sunni-dominated Iraqi army — if such a thing were even desirable or possible — could not impose order without employing all of the Hussein regime’s brutal tactics, including the inevitable massacre of probably thousands of rebellious Shiites. Is that what advocates of ‘lowering our sights’ have in mind?

Nor would partition be any easier to engineer. Yes, there could be an independent Kurdistan (and an ensuing war with Turkey) in the north. But the Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq are neither geographically nor culturally separate. They are intermingled. So, does partition mean transfers of population? And who would carry out those transfers, and how? Again, people who call for partition as an alternative to Iraqi democracy should explain exactly what their plan would look like and how it would produce a more stable result.”

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