My views on Iraq changed without me knowing it. Radio Free Mike’s post on Saturday (that current events don’t “mean we should pull out just because the terrorists are fighting back. Good God, people”) startled me when I recognized that it could be answering my post the previous day.
Pull out? I thought. Did I say that?
I’m forced to conclude that, yes, I pretty much did. I’d always felt the United States, having made the initial, fatal error of invading Iraq, had to stay to make things right. That, as Mike says, little good would come of leaving before it was stable.
In reconciling my thoughts then and now, though, I’m realizing a few things.
For instance, unconsciously or not, my grudging insistence on staying in Iraq was made before the reelection of President Bush, when I assumed the White House would be held by someone with a better grasp on reality, someone who didn’t have a mental dysfunction preventing him from evolving to reflect changing circumstances. Someone whose campaign tactics didn’t make rational reconsideration impossible, lest someone accuse him of “flip-flops.” And this could have been anyone, not just John Kerry. No administration could be engaged in Iraq with quite the incompetence of Bush, Vice President “Final Throes” Cheney or Defense Secretary Donald “I Don’t Do Quagmires” Rumsfeld.
It’s possible we’re stumbling toward an acceptable situation in Iraq, but it would have to be a stumble of extraordinary magnitude; with three weeks to go until the deadline for a permanent Iraqi constitution, Zalmay Khalilzad, our new U.S. ambassador there, is instead speaking publicly and repeatedly of the threat of civil war. Diplomats are being slaughtered and the government is tilting toward religious law and the exclusion of women as equals and away from the secular, westernized Kurds and inclusion of religious minorities.
Two years and three months after Bush declared the major fighting over in Iraq, our involvement there is increasingly a liability. The war was a loss as a show of preemptive power, since the world knows Iraq never intended to attack the United States and couldn’t if it wanted to. As a blow in the war on terrorism, it’s mostly blowback: the world knows Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction; that the United States cooked the evidence; and that terrorists are using Iraq as a recruiting tool and training ground. The war was supposed to make us safer, but police and mass transit systems around the world are bracing for attack.
“Now it’s really time. It almost seems to be a question of when in this country, not a question of if,” said Seattle’s police chief, Gil Kerlikowske, in yesterday’s New York Times.
Meanwhile, experts looks at bombings in Britain and Egypt and ponder “Were the attacks linked, and was Al Qaeda involved?” as though those questions still meant anything. Hint: They don’t.
Leaving Iraq prematurely would almost certainly be disastrous, if only because the terrorists would claim a win. But staying in Iraq would sound a lot better if it didn’t also mean staying the course in Iraq, with the same people in charge being the same people who’ve been in charge ever since they had the brilliant idea to go there in the first place.
Do I have an alternative? Not really. Not anymore. It’s unfair to demand creative and proper solutions to a problem of others’ making, and it’s absurd to craft them, when the solutions will be ignored anyway.
The only reasonable response at this moment is to hang on and wait out the situation — and hope, in the meantime, that the heads of more innocent people don’t get blown off by terrorists, soldiers or the police meant to be protecting us.