Blame the Iraqis

Here’s Bill O’Reilly expressing the latest bit of wisdom from the American Right:

The problem in Iraq is not American. The problem is the Iraqis themselves. They’re not fighting for their freedom in a way that puts the bad keys on the defensive.

There is only so much the USA can do. If the Iraqi people are unwilling to challenge the bad guys, the bad guys will win — period.

And here’s Charles Krauthammer making the same point:

Americans flatter themselves that they are the root of all planetary evil. Nukes in North Korea? Poverty in Bolivia? Sectarian violence in Iraq? Breasts are beaten and fingers pointed as we try to somehow locate the root cause in America.

Our discourse on Iraq has followed the same pattern. Where did we go wrong? Too few troops? Too arrogant an occupation? Or too soft? Take your pick.

I have my own theories. In retrospect, I think we made several serious mistakes — not shooting looters, not installing an Iraqi exile government right away, and not taking out Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army in its infancy in 2004 — that greatly compromised the occupation. Nonetheless, the root problem lies with Iraqis and their political culture.

Charming folks. We launch an unprovoked invasion of their country, overthrow the government without any plan for quelling the ensuing chaos, leave the populace at the mercy of unscrupulous neighbors like Iran and Syria, destroy a large percentage of the nation’s infrastructure, and send far too few troops to help control the ethnic animosities everyone knew were there, but it’s the Iraqis fault for not taking advantage of our munificence to setup a Jeffersonian democracy.

Michael Kinsley has a far more intelligent take on the chaos in Iraq:

Second, you don’t get to assume the success of your intentions then plead a shrugging “Who knew?” when they don’t pan out. I also am in favor of toppling dictators, establishing democracy and watching it spread painlessly throughout every region where there is no experience of it. Not only that: I am in favor of turning sand into ice cream and guaranteeing a cone to every child in the Middle East. But you can’t turn sand into ice cream. That is not a defect in the execution of the idea. It is a defect in the idea itself. Although Perle and Adelman and others may think they are dissing the Bush Administration when they talk about its incompetence in failing to turn sand into ice cream, they are also displaying the Bush Administration’s key vice, which is assuming that things are how you wish them to be and not how they are.


  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    November 30, 2006

    Kinsley uses too many words to convey a very simple point. In the spirit of Kolmogorov, you can compress it down to this: Manichean neoconservative fantasies don’t map reality.

    Neoconservatives have been using a refurbished version of the “White Man’s Burden” rationalization used by the European powers of the old world to justify colonialism since the end of cold war (something that was unfortunately also invoked by the Clinton administration during the era of “humanitarian intervention”), and Krauthammer, O’Reilly, et al. are just spouting it’s logical extension. Whenever something goes wrong, it’s not the fault of us enlightened Westerners, it’s the fault of those brown people and terror-lovin’ Aye-rabs.

    Hopefully the example of Iraq will teach us a lesson about how our military is to be used. It is used to defend our country, and the war on terror should focus exclusively on disrupting and apprehending terrorists that focus attacks on us. We need to drop this quixotic quest to remake the world, like now.

  2. #2 JoeC
    November 30, 2006

    Yes, the crux of this issue is that we indulged in a purely optional war. There was no need of it, no requirement for it, no crucial or strategic reason for it.

    It’s not that we did it wrong, it’s that we did it at all.

  3. #3 Russell Blackford
    November 30, 2006

    Who knew? Everyone should know that you don’t go to war lightly. Even if you think you understand the situation, the possible ramifications of any act of war are endless. You are crazy to go into an optional war unless it has very narrow and specific objectives that can clearly be achieved in the short term. Even then, it’s best to think twice and err on the side of caution. The same applies to “wars” on such things as drugs.

  4. #4 Roman Werpachowski
    December 1, 2006

    something that was unfortunately also invoked by the Clinton administration during the era of “humanitarian intervention”

    Yeah, let those Serbs slaughter those Albanians in Kosovo. Who friggin cares..

  5. #5 Dave S.
    December 1, 2006

    Looks like the Iraqinization … sorry, I mean the as-we-stand-down-they-stand-up policy isn’t working too good. You mentioned the neighbours Iran and Syria, but don’t forget that predominantly Sunni nations (e.g. Saudi Arabia) likely won’t just stand there while the Shia increase their regional influence courtesy of a fractured Iraq.

    Now that conflict should do some really interesting things to oil supply and pricing. Better buy that bicycle I was looking at now!

  6. #6 Adam
    December 1, 2006

    Colin Powel knew. Before we went in, he said, You break it, you buy it.

  7. #7 Ksdfsdforinthian
    December 1, 2006

    If things like this are not enough for impeachment, what the hell is?

  8. #8 trrll
    December 1, 2006

    The neoconservatives are beginning to sound more and more like the diehard communists, still insisting that communism would be a wonderful thing if it were done right. I suppose that should not surprise us, considering how many of them have their true political roots with the extreme left rather than with American conservatism. But war is closer to engineering than to mathematics. You have to take your materials into account. As perhaps Donald Rumsfeld perhaps should have said, You go to war with the President you have, not the one you would like to have. The neoconservatives had an unparalleled amount of influence on foreign policy. Strong advocates in the President’s inner circle, a receptive President, a supportive Congress. Yet the result was a historic disaster for American interests, and very different from what was predicted. If neocon theory cannot work under such opportune conditions, when can it work?

    At some point, you have to stop blaming experimental error, and accept the possibility that the theory is simply wrong.

  9. #9 Tyler DiPietro
    December 1, 2006

    Yeah, let those Serbs slaughter those Albanians in Kosovo. Who friggin cares..

    More like “Do not intervene in a civil war that is none of our business and bears no consequence to our national security or legitimate interests, and especially don’t go to war based on deliberately inflated numbers, or support known terrorist organizations.”

  10. #10 Tyler DiPietro
    December 1, 2006

    Yeah, let those Serbs slaughter those Albanians in Kosovo. Who friggin cares..

    Actually, my above post doesn’t capture the spirit of this incredibly pithy comment. Here are a few more:

    “Yeah, let those casualty numbers stay at about a tenth of our claims without gross inflation, who friggin cares..”

    “Yeah, let those civilian targets in Belgrade remain unbombed, who friggin cares..”

    “Yeah, let that inconvenient fact that the beloved “freedom fighters” in the KLA were committing the exact same crimes we accused Melosevic of get discussed, who friggin cares..”

    I could go on, but this comparison is better:

    “Yeah, let Saddam keep on slaughtering his people, who friggin cares…”

    The moral of the story: military interventionism doesn’t get any more black and white when a Democrat happens to be in office.

  11. #11 Richard Wein
    December 4, 2006

    “If things like this are not enough for impeachment, what the hell is?”

    Sex with a White House intern.

  12. #12 SLC
    December 4, 2006

    The problem with O’Reilly and Krauthammer is that they refuse to acknowledge the serious errors made by the administration, starting with ignoring General Shinsekis’ advice that at least 300,000 troops would be needed. What can one expect from a president who gets his advice on global warming from Michael Crichton.

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