Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 1, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

WINNING THE PEACE....Jon Dworkin links today to Fareed Zakaria's column in Newsweek asking "Why is an administration that was so bold, ambitious and clearheaded about waging war so hapless, diffident and error-prone when it comes to waging peace?" He points to Bosnia and Kosovo as partially successful nationbuilding efforts and then says:

In Afghanistan, we have just 5 percent as many troops, per capita, as we do in Kosovoand it shows. In Iraq, if we were to put as many troops as there are in Bosnia, per capita, the stabilization force required would be more than 250,000, about the number cited by the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Erik K. Shinseki. In Germany and Japan, five years after World War II, we had hundreds of thousands of troops stationed in each of those countries.

Before the war, a number of people asked why I (and many liberals) kept harping on the UN and other multilateral institutions. Did we have some kind of naive faith that these organizations would magically make things better?

No. Speaking for myself, anyway, I wanted the UN involved because it seemed clear that the U.S. didn't have the resources to handle the postwar occupation by itself. With other countries involved, we'd have more people, more money, and the help of organizations with a lot of specific expertise that we lack on our own.

Unfortunately, all the talk about "liberation" notwithstanding, I think a lot of people really don't care much what happens next. Here is Walter Russell Mead in the LA Times today asking what will happen if disorder in Iraq continues to get worse:

The short answer is that if Iraqi violence continues to rise, at some point the administration would go to Plan B: Find a general, turn the place over to him and go home.

....Elites would wring their hands, but voters would just shrug their shoulders. Poll after poll shows that Americans want democracy and human rights to spread around the world but that they don't want American combat troops to be caught in the crossfire. If Iraqis reject U.S. help to build a democracy, and Bush decides to bring the troops home, most voters will agree with his decision. They were willing to give this democracy-in-the-Middle-East idea a try and they genuinely do hope it will work but at the end of the day, they don't want a war over it.

Sadly, Mead is probably right. But I hope he's not.

Kevin Drum 3:29 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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