This end-of-summer pause, as the headlines fly about the latest bombing attack in Iraq, is an appropriate occasion to revisit my “Eve of Destruction” post, which occasioned so much comment back in March. In particular, I look back at my summary of Thomas Powers’ prescient prediction of the likely course of events following from a U.S. invasion of Iraq: “…a swift U.S. victory in a month or so. Then a couple months of calm. Then, a gradual awareness: That this project of installing a client government in Iraq, even in the sunniest of outcomes, must last a generation or more. That hundreds of thousands of American troops have now become sitting-duck targets for suicidal terrorists who will have no need to hijack a plane to access their foes.”
So here we are. The daily death of American soldiers has now become so commonplace it does not merit much coverage. The postwar period has now cost more lives than the active war. I trust that the reader who mocked my use of the phrase “sitting ducks” is now reconsidering his tone; what other phrase makes sense? Iraqi democracy does not seem in the offing in the short or medium term. We are incapable of protecting moderate Iraqis from extremists; we are incapable of protecting our own troops from random assault. Major bombings, like that of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad or today’s atrocity at the Najaf mosque, are on the rise.
Is it more money that we need? Since the Bush administration has made cutting taxes its top priority, it refuses even to admit that any Iraq-related expenses should be included in its budget forecasts. Is it more troops that we need?
Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld insist that that’s not the problem. We should just sit tight and let them handle it. They Have A Plan. I guess they’re just not sharing it with us. Or with our allies. Or with the Iraqis.
There’s a limited set of possibilities here: Either the government has no strategy at all; or it has one that is not working; or it has one that is so devious or immoral or inexplicable that it cannot reveal it to its own citizens.
There is a monstrous credibility gap here — yes, the phrase is from the Vietnam era, the last time the U.S. government undertook to justify a chronically deteriorating military situation by making increasingly incredible statements. It took years for the press and the public to cotton to the credibility gap then; this time around, we ought to be a little more savvy.