Thursday, October 13, 2005

"Careless people"

Gideon Rose, managing editor of Foreign Affairs, wrote a review of George Packer's The Assasin's Gate: America in Iraq for the Washington Post. He generally praises Packer's reporting on Iraq and agrees with his decision to end the book without a incisive analysis, instead posing some larger questions about Iraq's future. This chapter in history is far from complete and perhaps the Iraqis can avoid the worst-case scenario and create a new nation based on authentic democratic, representative systems. No one can write the final page yet.

What Rose correctly and succinctly points out, however, is that while Iraq is still a work in progress, it is well past time to expose and address the bungled manner in which the administration prepared for and prosecuted the Iraq war:
It is not too soon, however, to return a judgment on those at the helm who took a difficult job and made it infinitely more so, dramatically undermining America's regional and global position in the process. They were "careless people," as Fitzgerald said of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who "smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." That, if nothing else, can stand as a lesson for future tender souls contemplating the possible benefits of liberal imperialism and mulling attempts to do the right thing with the wrong partners.
Rose may even be too kind in that assessment. The administration was not hampered by having the wrong partners, but by its own actors. It's partners, in fact, were attempting to prop up the administrations staggering policies.

The administration turned to democratic themes as a last resort; themes that are attractive to Rose and others who see a positive role for U.S. power in promoting democracy and human rights. The administration knew it would be able to soften up opposition by posing it as a major goal instead of an ancillary benefit, if that. It has allowed them to avoid some difficult questioning and has caused many liberals who see value in intervention, such as President Clinton's actions in the Balkans, to question whether they have the right to hold President Bush accountable.

Some argue that the neocons prominent role was evidence of an interest in exporting democracy to the middle-east. Yet for the neocons, democracy was a means to an end. Their vision of which was an Iraq led by a government installed by the U.S. quickly after toppling the Saddam regime. The exposure and collapse of Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress exile group as little more than modern-day carpetbaggers demonstrated the willful misunderstanding the neocons had of the situation.

With Saddam gone, all the elements of government in Iraq disassembled, U.S. companies taking over much of the infrastructure and a few empty-shirt, pro-U.S. leaders installed, the administration believed they could walk away. The necons believed not in democracy as much as pro-U.S. governments in the middle-east, regardless of their respect for democracy.

- Murphy

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