Senate withdrawal proposal suggests weariness
April 16, 2007 —
George Packer, New Yorker staff writer and Mother Jones columnist, wrote what is possibly the best piece of work on the Iraq war in The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq in 2005. In the book, Packer traced the ideological beginnings of the war in so-called neo-conservative thinkers like Robert Kagan and the scandal-plagued Paul Wolfowitz through to the realities of the invasion and ensuing insurgency. Packer's analysis focuses on the lives of Iraqis - thinkers, idealists, ordinary folks - and everyday American officials and soldiers, offering a stunning glimpse at the differences in the expectations and conclusions of both groups.
Packer eventually concludes that the ouster of Hussein was a noble triumph, and the establishment of a stable, democratic Iraq was an entirely possible dream, crushed by countless blunders on the part of American officials, miscommunication between soldiers and Iraqis, the oppressive ignorance of Islamic extremists and the overriding ineptitude of Donald Rumsfeld.
Needless to say, his outlook on the eventual outcome of the war is grim, an assumption reinforced by his most recent piece in The New Yorker, "Betrayed." Well, it's 2007, about two years since The Assassin's Gate was published, and the Iraqi parliament building was attacked last Thursday by a suicide bomber. If that brazen attack is of any indication, it looks as though things have improved little.
It is fashionable for newspapers to call for an end to the war. The New York Times does it every day. Moreover, people expect it from college papers that tend to exhibit a leftist bent, especially in the editorials. So we won't say "It's time to get out," but we will ask: when is that day going to come?
The senate recently passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of troops by March 2008. Even though the proposal is non-binding, if March rolls around and the situation in Iraq has not improved, it is difficult to imagine that there won't be a massive backlash from the public, the press, and the politicians who devised the proposal.
As Packer reported in the book, Rumsfeld never intended the American forces that ousted Hussein to be an army of "nation-builders," and the Coalition Provisional Authority, under the command of Paul Bremer, was forced to operate as such.
But Iraq is a nation that could have used an army of nation-builders, not only to help build democratic institutions and establish the rule of law, but to construct the actual infrastructure necessary to run a government and provide civil services, especially after the tragic looting and widespread disorder in the country immediately after Hussein's fall.
But Rumsfeld wanted to field an army of the future. His vision was of a lightweight, highly mobile, high-tech force from a Tom Clancy novel that could take care of any situation, anywhere, at anytime efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, that vision did not coincide with reality.