Sunday, November 14, 2004

Tragic Mistake

In his review of Noah Feldman's new book "What We Owe Iraq", Robert Kagan (Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) makes a trechant point: (link via Andrew Sullivan)
"The most tragic [of the Bush administration's failures] was the failure in the early days after the invasion to fulfill the 'first duty' of an occupying power: providing basic security. Much has been made of the looting that occurred immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, but Feldman notes the essential point: by allowing the looting to proceed, American forces sent a clear message 'that the United States was not in charge, and that no one else was, either.' Iraqis had to seek security for themselves in what was for a time a state of anarchy, and it was hardly surprising that they turned to their own kind for protection. Feldman says that it was not 'ancient' ethnic and religious differences that empowered armed militias, but the human instinct for survival. 'Had there been half a million U.S. troops on the ground,' he insists, 'it is highly likely that there would have been little looting, no comparable sense of insecurity and therefore a reduced need for denominational identities to become as dominant as they quickly did.'"

As tempting as it is to pass this off as just another mistake in the Bush administration's litany of failures (and it is that too!), there also is room for hope. Professor Feldman apparently has devoted alot of his scholarly attention to the notion that religious, devout muslims hold the key to democratic reform. If that is the case, and the secretarian divides that currently are fueling the conflict are not inherent to the situation, the possibilty of creating a democratic government seems far more likely. Tough, but possible. I can only hope that the Bush administration reverses its trend of mistakes and misjudgments and seizes whatever oppurtunities come forward to make the dream of so many Iraqis a reality, because failure is not an option.

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