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Failure and Perspective

February 24, 2006

William F. Buckley, founder of the conservative National Review says the war is over, and it didn’t work:

One of these postulates, from the beginning, was that the Iraqi people,
whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in
order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them
religious freedom.

The accompanying postulate was that the invading American army would
succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymakers to cope with
insurgents bent on violence.

This last did not happen. And the administration has, now, to cope with failure…

Buckley, an extremely well-spoken and influential conservative over the past 50 years, has never been much of an advocate for the war (to my knowledge), even though NRO mostly is. Still, the image of that crumpled dome this weekend has been disheartening for me and many others hopeful that the war might produce some good results for everyone.

On the other hand, I found this interview of Robert Kaplan by Hugh Hewitt to be a valuable reminder (Kaplan, foreign correspondent for Atlantic Monthly, is extremely
well-traveled and has written extensively on the Middle East, the
Balkans and the US Military):

HH: Let’s turn to Iraq. Iran accused the United States of blowing the shrine. Your reaction?

My reaction is it’s…I don’t know who blew up the shrine. It’s
obviously not the United States. Look, the place could descend into
civil war, but it’s worth keeping the following facts in mind. As of a
few minutes ago, the New York Times is reporting 138 people killed out
of a population of 23 million. It’s not a civil war yet. In fact, I’m
kind of surprised it’s not a lot worse, given what happened. Given that
this is such a major symbol, I would have predicted you would have had
like 500 killed by this point. So it’s…think of it kind of like the
elections. Everyone said we need to get over the elections if this
place is going to stabilize. Well, we need to get over this. This is
another huge hump. I’m not saying that we will, but I’m not
saying…keep the following in perspective, Hugh. We had 250,000
people killed in sectarian violence in the former Yugoslavia. And you
had intellectuals throughout the United States claiming it was not a
civil war, it was just bad people and it was only cynics calling it a
civil war. You’ve had people calling this a civil war from a year ago,
when you had like ten people killed a day, out of a population of a
country the same size as Yugoslavia. Will it descend into civil war?
Possible. Who knows? You know, it’s in the balance. But you know, it’s
worth keeping things in perspective, is all I can say.

I know I sound like a knee-jerk supporter of the war, and I may be,
but I think more and more there’s a part of me that just resists panic
and defeatism. In war there are very dark times of doubt where failure
seems imminent. (Actually for me most of life has been this way.) This
is one of those times. Whether it’s the beginning of the end or just another crappy day in the middle remains to be seen.

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of
war may speedily pass away. —
Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rufus T. Flinger permalink
    February 25, 2006 11:53 pm

    Well written, Count.

    The status of the Iraq occupation and reconstruction cannot be judged on either it’s best days or what it has seen this last week, arguably it’s worst days.

    As I’ve mentioned in our past chats, I think the Iraq war has actually been two wars: the invasion and then later the war against the insurgency.

    Although I’ve disagreed about the wisdom of the first war of invasion, I share your sadness and concern about the state of the war of reconstruction.

    And I share hope for better days and pray that the current cycle of revenge somehow calms and that an actual government can be built before the political clock runs out on the ground over there…both for the sake of the Iraqi’s and our guys in the middle of everything.

    And I thought Mr. Lincoln’s prayer about the scourge of the US civil war was particularly apt.



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