Was Failure Inevitable?
Slate’s Jake Weisberg asks the question “was victory in Iraq ever possible?” and concludes that the answer is “maybe.” Weisberg is wary about throwing in his lot with those who would use the example of Iraq to disparage any future U.S. involvement in humanitarian intervention or reconstruction efforts:
Closer to the truth, it seems to me, is the broad middle ground
occupied by various supporters, opponents, and journalistic neutrals,
who, whatever their views on the war’s original merits, think that the
catastrophe in Iraq was contingent rather than foreordained. Reading
Thomas Rick’s Fiasco, or Larry Diamond’s Squandered Victory, or James Fallows’ Blind Into Baghdad, or George Packer’s Assassins’ Gate,
it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Bush and the Pentagon
made a series of avoidable, catastrophic errors in the run-up to the
war and the first year of the occupation. These errors were so
significant that they virtually guaranteed our defeat.
In the process, Weisberg links to an excellent analysis by Brookings’ Ken Pollack on the subject. Pollack is particularly critical of the emerging neoconservative line that the collapse of Iraq is primarily the fault of the Iraqis. Here’s the nut graf:
If Iraq does slide into all-out civil war, the Bush Administration will
have only itself to blame. It disregarded the advice of experts on
Iraq, on nation-building, and on military operations. It staged both
the invasion and the reconstruction on the cheap. It never learned from
its mistakes and never committed adequate resources to accomplish
either its original lofty aspirations or even its later, more modest
goals. It refused to believe intelligence that contradicted its own
views and doggedly insisted that reality conform to its wishes. In its
breathtaking hubris, the Administration engineered a Greek tragedy in
Iraq, the outcome of which may plague us for decades.