2003 November 07 Friday
Noah Millman To Pollyannas: Take Rebuilding Of Iraq Seriously

Noah Millman of Gideon's Blog refers back to a post he made on October 18, 2002 on the difficulties of governing post-war Iraq in a post he has just made on October 29, 2003 expressing his frustration with Pollyanna war enthusiasts who are not taking the scale of the problems in Iraq seriously.

Now, I don't begrudge the pollyannas their optimism. This country was built on optimism. What drives me nuts, though, is stuff like this piece by Bernard Lewis and James Woolsey saying that maybe we should bring back the Hashemites to establish a more legitimate order in Iraq.

I don't remember precisely where Lewis stood before the war, though I know he was supportive generally. But I'm quite sure that Woolsey was one of the pollyannas, a big booster of Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, the whole nine yards. Now he's boosting the idea of a Hashemite restoration. But if I recall correctly, one of the main *opponents* of bringing in a Hashemite was the Ahmad Chalabi. I believe he articulated the view that to restore the Hashemites would be a betrayal that would justly result in Iraqi resistance to the American occupation.

I'm not asking Woolsey to say, "sorry, I was wrong." I don't even know if his new angle is right; I can think of a few problems with the idea of bringing back the monarchy. I am, however, asking him - and Richard Perle, and the rest of the gung-ho crowd - to start taking this job seriously and stop acting like rebuilding Iraq is something we can make up as we go along. If we thought the way to go was to restore the Hashemite monarchy, we needed to lay the groundwork a long while ago. We needed to make that clear before we went in, before we made anyone any promises, before we threw our lot in with the INC and before we rebuffed Abdullah of Jordan's uncle (the likely candidate for the job of King of Iraq). We can't just pull a switcheroo like this. We're not founding an internet company here that can rebrand every six months with no one left the wiser. We are in no danger of losing Iraq due to excessive casualties. If we are in danger of losing Iraq, it's because sometimes we seem to be going about this like a bunch of amateurs.

Noah is right. To take this latest proposal as an example, there is something frivolous to the notion of restoring the Hashemite throne in Iraq. Lewis and Woolsey can find nothing more important to propose? How about teaching most of the US soldiers in Iraq or preparing to deploy to Iraq how to speak Arabic so that they can better collect information and develop better relations with the locals? And why wasn't that done before the invasion? How about scaling up the size of the intelligence effort investigating the resistance? How about developing a secular school system and finding ways to subtlely discourage cousin marriage? Other ideas could be proposed and you can find more in my pre-war post-war archives. But I despair of ever seeing them adopted.

For the record, Noah was not the only one who saw in advance that reconstruction of Iraq would be very difficult. See, for instance, my post of October 16, 2002: Hardest Part Of Iraq War Is Reconstruction and my October 18, 2002 post Pessimists on Muslim Democracy. Also see from January 15, 2003: Stanley Kurtz: After the War . I still do not see clear signs that the believers in the universal appeal of liberal democracy have yet figured out the size of the gap between their dreams and reality.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 November 07 12:52 PM  Mideast Iraq


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