Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 10, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

YET MORE PROBLEMS....More resignations in Iraq:

The US-led administration in Baghdad was on Friday night fighting to keep Iraq's Governing Council intact after two ministers quit in protest at the US crackdown on Shia and Sunni unrest.

...."There will be many resignations," said Haider Abbadi, communications minister.

....Adnan Pachachi, hitherto touted as a future president, condemned the siege as "illegal, ferocious and completely unacceptable", and described it as mass punishment of its 200,000 residents.

...."It's as if the US army is out of control," said Mr Abbas, the communications minister. "Iraqis can no longer afford to been seen siding with the Americans."

This, unfortunately, is becoming the key point. If Iraqi leaders loudly condemn the Americans it just serves to encourage the insurgents, but if they don't, they lose all credibility with Iraqis and become useless as leaders.

In a funny way, Iraq is now the extreme version of the partisan hardening mentioned in the Austin American-Statesman article I linked to yesterday. In a charged partisan atmosphere, you simply can't criticize someone on your own side no matter what the provocation for fear of getting shunned by your own group. This causes a continuing downward spiral of partisanship, and in Iraq we're seeing the pathological endpoint of this.

My guess is that in the end we'll put down this particular uprising, but it won't do any good. Even if we capture or kill Muqtada al-Sadr, someone will simply take his place and we'll end up fighting this battle all over again. To make it worse, the "don't worry be happy" crowd will continue to insist that nothing is fundamentally wrong, which makes it doubly impossible that we'll ever broker a real solution. If you don't think the problem is real, how can you fix it?

I wonder. If President Bush had faced the problem squarely a year ago and been honest about what needed to be done several hundred thousand troops for the better part of a decade would he have gotten the popular support he needed for the war? Maybe not. But by not doing it he's guaranteed an even worse outcome: going to war and losing popular support afterward.

Which inevitably leads to the eternal question: were Bush (and Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Cheney) lying when they told us all about how easy this would be? (Official congressional testimony here.) Or did they really believe it? And which is worse?

Kevin Drum 12:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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