August 25, 2005

Column 2005-8-25 Brief Commentary

Sadly, I lack the time to discuss all the problems with Brooks's latest effort, so I'm going to focus on the big picture instead. Also, in this case the big picture is extremely important, as Brooks is unveiling what will almost certainly become a common conservative tactic as the inevitable Iraq withdrawal approaches: declaring victory at the drop of a hat. Here, Brooks declares victory because a constitution has been written, or at least "exists in people's heads and in copies annotated with handwritten notes." It is worth noting that Brooks's premise is extremely flimsy, as the constitution has not yet been adopted (and given Sunni attitudes, may well not be), and even if it is it remains to be seen just how effective it can be in a country where every major political party is associated with a heavily-armed militia and political disagreements can quickly become full-fledged battles. Furthermore, it appears that the constitution will enshrine Islam as a major part of law, trampling on women's rights, and essentially split the country in three parts. This is hardly the beacon of democracy that we were promised. But the fact is that the reason why Brooks is declaring victory here is really irrelevant: desperate conservatives will likely start declaring victory whenever anything that could be interpreted as good news appears. What is really important is to point out that unless current conditions change drastically, victory in Iraq is unachievable. The administration launched this war for no good reason, didn't prepare for it, and has now almost certainly lost it, and those such as Brooks who will assert that some event suggests otherwise need to quickly disabused of any such notion. Army Major General Joseph Taluto describes the insurgency as "intrinsic" and, as noted above, political violence exists outside of the Sunni insurgency as well. Unemployment is around 50%. Power is out in Baghdad for 20 hours a day. And Iran is vying with the U.S. to express its appreciation of the new constitution. No WMD's were found. Saddam and Osama weren't best buddies after all. Neocons once derided those who said that stability should take precedence over democracy in foreign policy: now they're willing to endorse a semi-theocracy in the likely vain hope of achieving that previously mocked goal. While there are multiple scenarios in which the U.S. could declare victory in Iraq -- a perfect Jeffersonian democracy is not a requirement -- none of them have any resemblance to the reality there. It is especially galling, then, for Brooks to write that the U.S. has succeeded in Iraq. This goes beyond moving the goalposts: Brooks is busily stringing a volleyball net across the field and looking at the football as if he's never seen it before. Since achieving what they set out to accomplish is probably impossible, the administration and its cheerleaders are likely to take any hint of good news as an opportunity to declare that current conditions are actually what they wanted all along, and they must not be allowed to do so.