Iraq: When Chaos Becomes Success
By Doug Bandow
The Bush administration is attempting to solve the crisis in Iraq by redefining success. No longer is the goal a liberal, multi-ethnic nation. Now the objective is preserving a nominal country in which various sectarian groups minimize violence by living apart and ignoring the inefficient and corrupt central government. Grotesque failure is to be treated as victory.
With the administration busy rewriting history, it is worth remembering what was originally promised in Iraq. Charles Ferguson has produced a TV documentary and book, ``No End in Sight: Iraq's Descent into Chaos'' (PublicAffairs, 2008), which demonstrates how the administration mismanaged virtually every decision, big and small.
Ferguson, who originally favored the war, paints a portrait of arrogance and incompetence more devastating than anything coming from the Democratic National Committee.
The administration didn't plan beforehand. It excluded the most knowledgeable people from what little planning that took place. Moreover, writes Ferguson, ``They won't have telephones or email for months after they arrive in Iraq. Our troops will stand by as nearly every major building in the country is looted, destroyed, and burned."
After tossing millions of bureaucrats and soldiers onto the street, the administration is shocked to find a growing insurgency. Yet as opposition builds, writes Ferguson, ``they will deny its existence."
Twenty-somethings were hired for their opposition to abortion rather than their knowledge of Arabic to write laws for Iraq. As sectarian violence swells, the administration and its acolytes will insist that the media is ignoring all of the good news ― like the trash being collected.
Had tens of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions, of Iraqis not been wounded, maimed, and killed because of the administration's horrid mistakes, the Iraq saga would be a comedy routine. But there is nothing funny about the catastrophe that has enveloped Iraq.
Ferguson methodically details the idiocies that masqueraded as U.S. policy. The war itself went well, but was merely the first installment of a lengthy conflict that the administration never expected to have to fight. Washington believed that it merely had to show up to rule.
Ferguson's book well covers the many legendary examples of administration stupidity and hubris. Through it all the Bush administration remained a fantasyland in which only good news was tolerated.
The knock on President George W. Bush, notes Ferguson, is not that he was disengaged, but that he was involved in the major decisions. Alas, his involvement occurred in a different dimension, cleansed of inconvenient ideas, facts, and conclusions.
Unfortunately, Iraqi civilians and American service personnel were unable to enjoy the fantasies being built in the sky by administration officials. They lived on and patrolled the bloody streets across Iraq.
Antagonism towards the U.S. was fueled by occupation practices. Ferguson's discussion of casualties, both American and Iraqi, is particularly poignant. Moreover, four to five million Iraqis have fled their homes ― one-sixth or more of the population.
Harvard's Samantha Power observes that ``One of the elements that kind of unites the U.S. relationship to Iraq across time is a disregard or just a nonconsideration of the welfare of the Iraqi people."
Indeed, there must be a special level of Hell reserved for ivory tower social engineers who cavalierly initiate war with little concern for the likely consequences on those unwillingly providing the battlefield.
Equally important is Ferguson's assessment of the impact of the war. The ultimate financial cost to the American people is likely to exceed $2 trillion.
Washington has strengthened Iran, turning it into the region's principal Islamic power. And the Bush administration's botched war has exacerbated the problem of terrorism, both creating more terrorists and providing them with a sophisticated training ground.
Perhaps the book's most sobering conclusion is that the so-called ``surge" cannot be sustained. Iraqi observers are particularly skeptical.
Violence is down, but they expect it to eventually rise since little has changed about Iraqi society. There is little likelihood of creating the kind of system for which it would be worth fighting to the last soldier and marine.
Getting out of Iraq is the most important goal of U.S. policy today. The war was a horrible mistake based on flawed intelligence with horrendous humanitarian consequences for Iraqis.
It is bleeding precious lives from patriotic communities across the U.S. and generating a flood of red ink for an already spendthrift government. The misbegotten conflict has weakened America, degraded American security, and wrecked America's international reputation. America's friends also are paying a high price for Washington's mistakes.
Thus, there is an equally important longer-term objective for American voters. Never again a war of choice based on fantasy expectations. Never again.
Doug Bandow is the Robert A. Taft fellow at the American Conservative Defense Alliance. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of ``Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire'' (Xulon Press). He can be reached at email@example.com.