The Corner

No One’s Going to Step Up

A useful illustration in the Post this week that not every foreigner has an American inside of them waiting to get out:

The idea was to train the Iraqis so that when the time came to distribute the wheelchairs, Blauser and the 20 or so U.S. soldiers who coordinated the giveaway could fade into the background as Iraqi troops presented 32 fully assembled wheelchairs to disabled children.

“We’re trying to build rapport,” said Staff Sgt. Craig Jackson, 34, of Pennsylvania, one of the squad leaders working with Blauser. “Show them that their government is trying to help its people.”

But the mission in Fadhil, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, showed quite the opposite. It raised questions that haunt U.S. troops as they prepare to pull out of Iraqi cities by June 30: When the Americans leave, how will the Iraqi forces behave? Will the billions of dollars and thousands of lives spent propping up and legitimizing the Iraqi government prove to have been a poor investment?

Thirty minutes into the assembly tutorial, the crowd of Iraqi soldiers thinned as curiosity gave way to boredom. Soon, Blauser, 43, found himself surrounded mainly by U.S. troops.

“What happened to all the people who were supposed to be helping put these together?” demanded Jackson, visibly irked. “We’re not doing it.”

Having lived in the Middle East, this lack of civic responsibility for people you’re not related to is completely familiar, both in the micro sense described above and in the macro sense that would be required to maintain Iraq over the long term as a sort-of-coherent, sort-of-democratic country. I know people here don’t like hearing this, but as we ease up control over the country things are likely to start falling apart. Don’t be surprised to see chaos, division, and foreign meddling a la Lebanon for the foreseeable future. That or military takeover, as we’re likely to see soon in Pakistan.

And in related news, I was happy to see that David Goldman over at First Things is part of the “rubble doesn’t make trouble” school:

These atrocities were motivated by a religion that permits a peaceful interpretation, but cannot refute the cruelest and most violent interpretation. America simply is in no position to expose large numbers of its military and civilian personnel to this sort of horror. Instead we should attempt to quarantine such cultures and expose our own people to them as little as possible. In other words, we should intervene in the Islamic world where urgent American security interests are at stake, but to the minimum extent possible, and with no commitment to determine the civil outcome. We must leave the Muslim world to its own destiny rather than to attempt to engineer a happy ending.

Amen.

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