Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Revision Revulsion

[posted by Callimachus]

Ken Pollack, who was one of the people whose writings helped convince me (and a great many other skeptical liberals) of the case for overthrowing Saddam in 2003, is, of course, furious at the way the victory was mismanaged. But he still says it could have worked. And so do I.

Perhaps at some point in the future, revisionist historians will try to claim that the effort was doomed from the start, that it never was possible to build a stable, let alone pluralistic, new Iraq in the rubble of Saddam Hussein's fall.

I don't think Ken gets out much. He certainly doesn't read the blogs. Because that's not a hypothetical future-history position; it's the prevailing paradigm in the anti-war movement. An unexplored paradigm, to be sure (at least on the left side of the anti-war movement) because of its uncomfortable corollaries about the nature of Western and Arab societies.

However, that is decidedly not the view of the experts, the journalists covering the story, or the practitioners who went to Iraq to put the country back together after the 2003 invasion. Americans returning from Iraq -- military and civilian alike -- have proven unanimous in their view that the Iraqis desperately want reconstruction to succeed and that they have the basic tools to make it work, but that the United States has consistently failed to provide them with the opportunities and the framework to succeed. Indeed, perhaps the most tragic evidence of this unrealized potential is that even three-and-a-half years after Saddam's fall, with Iraq mired in a deepening civil war and no sign of real progress on the horizon, over 40 percent of Iraqis still clung to the belief that Iraq was headed in the right direction -- with only 35 percent saying it was headed in the wrong direction.

That's been my experience, too. You can't blame this on the Iraqi people. They got shafted. If they've by and large reverted to tribal loyalties and ways, that's probably because nothing else post-2003 offered them any kind of protection or security.