Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I just finished reading Fiasco last night, Bush--the appropriately-titled book by Thomas E. Ricks about your adventure in Iraq. A frightening read. And a fascinating one, for one who has no military knowledge or experience, since it describes in detail the lead-up to the invasion and its planning, and the grievous mistakes in both the strategy and the conduct of the war. We learn about all this often at first hand, from the notes and recollections of officers and men in the field.

It did not surprise me to learn, of course, that the greatest failure was in the almost complete absence of post-invasion plans. Your Rumsfeld's "shock and awe" seemed, at first sight, to work brilliantly, but his apparent conviction that the subsequent phase could be handled by a minimum force opened the way for the insurgency--and for increasing Iraqi mistrust and anger as they watched their country fall apart under American occupation. As Ricks tells it, our military failed to take into account the lessons learned from previous attempts to battle insurgencies and relied primarily on the application of force against the enemy rather than on "winning the hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people who might otherwise have helped contain them.

The book ends on a somewhat hopeful note, but with a caution. The hopeful note is to be found in evidence that the military have learned from their mistakes, and that they are changing their tactics to a more peaceful and constructive approach, with some positive results. The caution is that, if we continue to repeat the mistakes of the past, the whole region could destabilize in a variety of scenarios, none of which would be anything but hostile to the United States.

Events of the past couple of months are not encouraging, Bush, I have to say. The continuing sectarian violence in Iraq itself, the rise in power of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel's failed attempt to bring them under control, the unresolved situation in Gaza, and Iran's dangerous dance on the nuclear issue--none of these bode well in isolation for future regional stability; together, they form an ominous cloud of warning. I've seen no indication that you have any overarching strategy to address these escalating problems. The spread of freedom and democracy might make a good slogan, Bush, but it's no policy. And your Rice, for all her determinedly perky optimism, seems to be flailing hopelessly in this quicksand.

Meanwhile I learn from the headline in today's Los Angeles Times that 2,500 Marine reservists are to be called back to active duty in Iraq--"the latest sign," the Times reports, "that the American force is under strain and a signal that the military is having trouble persuading young veterans to return." The image of omnipotent American strength has been severely compromised. For myself, I wouldn't worry too much about that if it weren't for the concurrently increasing instabiity throughout the world. Iran, North Korea, India and Pakistan, the African continent... and I read somewhere that Chinese generals are advising their leaders that this is a good moment to think about invading Taiwan.

With the United States floundering under your leadership, Bush, I worry about how we are all to survive the next two years.

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