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The Washington Post, whose editorial pages are generally clear-thinking on the war even when critical of the Bush administration, descends into self-contradictory babble in today's ultimately pointless second editorial:
TWO MONTHS after the Bush administration embarked on an effort to attract greater international support for its mission in Iraq, it faces the latest surge of violence on the ground from a position that is more isolated than ever.
Did I miss something? Has someone withdrawn from the established Coalition? Didn't Bush just get a unanimous resolution from the Security Council affirming the Coalition's mission in Iraq, something that the Clinton administration never did in the Balkans (where, by the way, we still have troops)? How is the Bush administration "isolated", let alone more isolated than ever?
Rather than look for further help from India, Pakistan or Russia, or even NATO allies, the Bush administration has abruptly embraced a new strategy -- "Iraqification," a rapid buildup of local police and paramilitary forces under U.S. tutelage. Maybe this policy will produce better results, but it's worth considering why the attempt at multilateralism has proved a failure.
"Iraqification" is the entire point. At some time, Iraq will need to police and defend itself, unless the Post is arguing for an extended occupation, either by the Coalition or by the UN, which it specifically is not.
Part of the explanation must account for U.S. enemies in Iraq, who seem to have achieved just the aim they were seeking in bombing U.N. and Red Cross facilities. ... The bombers took advantage of longstanding vulnerabilities in U.N. security procedures, as an internal investigation has shown. ... Despite the president's declared intention to seek a larger U.N. role, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his staff openly campaigned against it; they succeeded in blocking any weakening of the Pentagon's monopoly over power in Baghdad. This prompted governments that had been considering contributions of troops to pull back, and it caused senior U.N. officials to question why they should risk the lives of their staff to play a peripheral role.
So what was the UN excuse in Rwanda? The Congo? In fact, I challenge the Washington Post to name one conflict in the past 20 years where the UN took positive action to stop violence where anyone other than American or British leadership wasn't involved. In every other case, the UN contingent stands around watching while genocide occurs, and then gets withdrawn when the populace attacks their troops. The cut-and-run maneuver is standard operating procedure for the UN, and has nothing to do with George Bush.
And as far as the Pentagon's monopoly over Iraq, I would suggest that the British still have a major role in the Coalition, especially in the South, and would remind the Post that if control over Iraq had been handed over to the UN, most of the troops would still have to be American; other countries have never contributed troops in the numbers needed to make the mission successful. That means that either we leave 150,000 troops under foreign command, or we withdraw so many troops that the mission would fail from lack of manpower. It's all very well to toss around concepts such as "Pentagon monopoly" and "UN command", but if you're not going to discuss the ramifications of the options, it looks suspiciously like the writer doesn't grasp them.
It will now fall almost exclusively to U.S. soldiers to fight the insurgents in Baghdad and the Sunni triangle, and the United States will have to pay most of the cost of humanitarian relief and reconstruction in the coming year.
As I said above, that wouldn't change under UN command anyway. Also, the Bush administration just got $16 billion in foreign assistance for the reconstruction this past month, which almost matches the $20 billion we'e approved. "Most", I think, implies a greater difference than 12%.
The new police and security forces already have come under a concentrated assault by ambush and car bomb -- will their slight training and fragile morale prove adequate to withstand the pressure? If U.S. troops do not stay and fight with them, but instead are drawn down during an election year, that seems unlikely. Iraqi recruits also will want to know what they are fighting for. If the answer seems to be a dominating U.S. occupation regime, as opposed to a rapidly emerging Iraqi sovereignty, the commitment of our new comrades in arms may not be much greater than that of the international agencies and allies who lately have been slipping away.
So do you want us to stay, or do you want us to leave? In one sentence, the Post warns of reducing our presence, and in the very next breath, it accuses the Bush adminstration of creating a long-term domination of Iraq; the Post seriously questions Iraqi ability to police their own country, and then tells the Coalition that unless we give the Iraqis sovereignty, they won't protect their own interests. This editorial bounces between mutually exclusive arguments as though they were mutually supportive, all the while blaming the Bush administration for not convincing the French and Germans to support a war against a dictator that they had spent a decade assisting in undermining the US and the UN. It's a remarkable and unusual exercise in incoherence from the Post, but as such, it is sure to appear in the editorial pages of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune soon.Sphere It View blog reactions
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