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May 25, 2004


I'm in a funk.   I watched the President's speech last night.   Thought he did ok, though he really didn't say anything new.   Watched some of the spin; CNN's John King decrying "the lack of an exit strategy", Democratic Senator Joe Biden telling Chris Matthews on MSNBC that the President should convene a "summit meeting" with France and Germany to request their military support (as if...) and whining that every military leader he talks to says we needed two or three hundred thousand soldiers in Iraq.   Turned off the TV in disgust and read my daughter a couple of chapters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  (Just my luck, the first chapter I read was "The Triumph of the Witch".)

This morning more of the same.  The NYT editorializing that the administration screwed up in Iraq and refuses to admit it, has no plan, yadda yadda.   David Brooks observing that Bush is gambling his presidency on a hail mary play for Iraqi democracy.   Perhaps the WaPo's "style columnist" Tom Shales put it best with his opening sentance: "Old Blue Tie was back, but not exactly in top form."

The truth is (or at least I believe the truth is) that the attempt to bring something close to democracy to Iraq was bound to be messy and difficult.   There are no Arab democracies.   And building one in an ethnically and religiously polarized country like Iraq after several decades of totalitarian oppression was bound to be hard.   Even if Iraq's regional neighbors weren't doing their damnest to sabotage the effort (Iran by funding and organizing thugs like Muqtada Al Sadr, Syria and Al Queda by infiltrating terrorists and foreign fighters to attack US troops and those Iraqis who are working to build a new Iraq).   But does that mean that it was mistake for us to have tried or that the effort is hopeless?   I don't think so.

In fact -- though some may think me delusional to think so -- I think we are making progress in Iraq.   On the military front over the past month, our troops have successfully defeated two major insurgencies; the Sunni/Baathist revolt in Fallujah and Al Sadr's attempt to sieze power in the religious heartland of Shia Iraq (Karbala, Najaf and Kufa).   Furthermore, they did so with very limited US and civilian casualties while operating in a highly unfavorable populated urban environment.   Of course, some conservative critics, like former soldier Ralph Peters bellyache that we should not have allowed the insurgents in Fallujah to "win" by negotiating a settlement allowing the town to be policed by local forces that had been part of the old regime (as well as, most likely, the insurgency).   And the steady pin pricks of roadside IEDs and RPG attacks continue to take their toll.   But overall, the security situation appears to be improving and the Kurdish North and Shia South remain peaceful (though both have suffered from Al Queda terror attacks).

On the economic front in Iraq, the flow of international aid to Iraq appears to be making a difference on the ground, if the reports of Iraqi bloggers are to be believed.   There is private construction going on everywhere, and building material prices have therefore risen sharply.  Salaries are also up and its hard to find qualified people to hire.

As more Iraqi policemen and security guards are trained and put in place, it should be increasingly possible for US troops to stay out of Iraqi towns and cities and out of reach of terrorists with IEDs.

The only question is whether or not we have the intestinal fortitude to stay the course.   I'm betting we will, but it is no sure thing.

On a more positive note, in spite of the unrelenting cavalcade of bad news and anti-American spin, Bush and Kerry remain tied in the polls.   Maybe the innate sensibilities of the American people will help us pull through.  Here's hoping...

May 25, 2004 at 12:23 PM | Permalink


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