Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pining for the Fjords

Like most puffed-up liberal snobs in these United States, I spent part of the morning imperiously examining the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq through my bejeweled lorgnette, while uttering disapproving little clucks.

There's a lot to cluck about, too. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis has found some factual problems with it, and also criticizes it in terms that delight an effete, impuissant dandy like myself:

The document itself is an offense to the orderly mind, a mish-mash of arrows, bullet points and checkmarks that often violate the convention against “dividing” points into fewer than two subpoints.
The Strategy really does come across like a first-draft marketing plan for some struggling start-up business. It's disorganized, confusing, and repetitive; it's mindnumbingly attentive to obvious or unimportant points (e.g., the value of success), and maddeningly vague where one wants real details. Basically, it describes the successes we've achieved through being successful, and anticipates new successes that will reward us for our continued success, so long as we overcome the challenges posed by threats, which we're fully intent on doing, because failure is not an option when one's aim is to succeed.

In other words, it's a typical work of utopian imagination, in which the worthiness of the goal is supposed to stifle objections about the lack of progress towards it, and the practical and moral obstacles that make achieving it unlikely or indefensible.

One section, amazingly, is headed "The Benefits of Victory in Iraq." It's incredible that we're three years into a war of choice, the absolute wisdom and necessity of which has been proclaimed nonstop by the Administration and all its dead-eyed minions, and they're still worried that Americans haven't grasped the concept that Freedom is doubleplus good. Business acumen is supposedly one of the things that makes BushCo fit to run the country, so they ought to know that you can't overcome buyers' remorse by harping on what your shoddy product would do if it worked properly. When it comes to blithely dishonest salesmanship, the pet-shop owner in Monty Python's "dead parrot" sketch has nothing on these folks.

"The Consequences of Failure" is another interesting section (not least because a couple of the consequences are currently in in evidence). One of the consequences it warns about is that Iraq could become
A safe haven for terrorists as Afghanistan once was, only this time in some of the world’s most strategic territory, with vast natural resources to exploit and to use to fund future attacks. A country where oppression – and the brutal imposition of inhumane practices, such as those of the Taliban in Afghanistan – is pervasive.
In other words, I guess, it'll turn out like our staunch ally (and indulgent creditor) Saudi Arabia.

The document also says that failure will
[call] into question American credibility and commitment in the region and the world. Our friends and foes alike would doubt our staying power, and this would damage our efforts to counter other security threats and to advance other economic and political interests worldwide.
Now, we can argue about whether this is justified or not, but it's a plain fact that under Bush, America's credibility in the region and the world has suffered far worse calamities than being "called into question." Maybe it's reasonable to worry about what our friends and foes think of our "staying power" in an adventure that the majority of them view as ill-conceived and reckless...but if so, this does a great deal to demonstrate why the war was a bad idea. We're shackled by our inability to forfeit whatever credibility we have left, while terrorists and their ilk are free to wage a war of attrition on us, and humiliate us before the world. This outcome was worth considering before we invaded, I think.

BushCo has essentially blundered into Bin Laden's hands, and is now using the entirely predictable result of that blunder as an excuse for "staying the course" indefinitely. But Bin Laden understands, even if Bush doesn't, that corrupt wars of choice lacking strong public support are dangerous to the stability - and even the survival - of the countries that wage them (cf. the USSR). Far from being upset by the war in Iraq, he and his creatures are the only people likely to derive real long-term benefit from it, at least in the ideological arena.

The section on specific strategies for victory are about as vague as you'd expect. The most outrageous claim, to my mind, is that we are soon going to
Restore Iraq’s neglected infrastructure so it can meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy.
"Neglected" is right. And with clean water and electricity still unreliable or absent after three goddamn years, it's no wonder there's "increasing demand." Of all the vicious and corrupt things we did in Iraq, failing to rebuild, restore, and modernize infrastructure immediately - using Iraqi workers and engineers exclusively - is one of the worst. It was a major cause of social unrest, radicalization, and countless health problems for civilians; it provided an immediate, obvious disconfirmation of any rosy pronouncement BushCo and its Iraqi mouthpieces made about "progress"; it offered an ideal propaganda opportunity for Bin Laden and company; and it allowed profiteering firms to loot billions of dollars in tax money, without delivering anything approaching acceptable results.

The Administration's attempt to answer critics by announcing its inclination to address this problem - a problem it went very far out of its way to cause, and to exacerbate - tells you all you need to know about its interest in the well-being of the Iraqi people. It's also typical of BushCo's contemptuous, cavalier approach to communicating with the public and the world.


Anonymous said...

Well-skewered, I'd say.


Anonymous said...

You hoist them on their own petard!