2006 August 24 Thursday
Bush Emphasizes Preventing Iraq From Getting Worse

Peter Baker of the Washington Post says the Bush Administration has shifted their style of talking about Iraq from emphasising supposed improvements toward arguing that we have to focus in not letting Iraq get even worse.

Of all the words that President Bush used at his news conference this week to defend his policies in Iraq, the one that did not pass his lips was "progress."

For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.

Bush is now making the mistake of imagining that bigger losses are avoidable. The longer the denial continues the larger the damage that will be done.

When I was much younger and more naive I used to think that the people who run the United States must be highly competent. Now I think their understanding of reality is highly faulty. If we are to believe this article the Bushies though that that the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would cut back on the size of the insurgency in Iraq. Never mind that many insurgency groups exist in Iraq and that the US military knows their separate identities. Bush Administration cluelessness seemingly has no bounds.

While still committed to the venture, officials have privately told friends and associates outside government that they have grown discouraged in recent months. Even the death of al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq proved not to be the turning point they expected, they have told associates, and other developments have been relentlessly dispiriting, with fewer signs of hope.

Every time you have an expectation and it turns out to be wrong it is a sign that you have a flawed model of the world. People who have highly flawed models will continue to get it wrong in the future. They should not have as much power or influence. People with wrong track records should have their opinions discounted.

What other supposed "turning point" moments have come and gone with Iraq? The initial invasion that was supposed to usher in Jeffersonian democracy. The capture of Saddam. The capture of Saddam's top lieutenants. The killing of Saddam's sons. The creation of an Iraqi government. Elections. Other turning points that I'm sure I'm forgetting. These other turning points did not live up to their expectations. But the Bushies just moved on to the next fantasy.

Now the Bushies are finding it hard to maintain the full blown delusion. That isn't to say that they have totally ceased being deluded. They've had to scale back the extent of their delusions. But they are still deluded.

Speaking at the New America Foundation former diplomat James Dobbins, Rand Corporation International Security & Defense Policy Director, said many things (worth watching if you can catch a C-SPAN rebroaddcast) about Iraq. One line stands out: "We can either stay and make things bad slowly or leave and make things bad quickly." You can also watch his speech via a video download.

Dobbins thinks the Bush Administration made a conscious choice to deceive themselves (I think he used the term "selective ignorance" to describe that choice) when they made post-WWII Germany and Japan the models for what they hoped to achieve in Iraq. Dobbins thinks far more recent US involvements were better models. Though I think Iraq provides much worse starting material than, for example, Kosovo or Bosnia. He thinks that the Bush Administration ignored the Clinton Administration's experiences with military occupation precisely because it was the Clinton Administration which had those experiences. Can't learn from the opposition when the opposition has been painted as highly mistaken in all things.

The New American Foundation panel was entitled "Moral Clarity and the Middle East". If the Iraq debacle leads to greater clarity about human nature then the war could still provide an important benefit.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 August 24 11:28 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate

gcochran said at August 25, 2006 12:07 AM:

" When I was much younger and more naive I used to think that the peope who run the United States must be highly competent. "

When I was a little boy, Dwight Eisenhower was President of the United States and I thought the same thing.

John S Bolton said at August 25, 2006 2:46 AM:

Knowing what can't be done; such as another intervention in Haiti, suddenly mushrooming into democratic nirvana, is a considerable part of what such competence would mean.
There is also a sly competence at what can be gotten away with, just because anyone who says you can't do successful nation-building there, is discriminating.
Now we have a social regime in which anti-discrimination has been, all too conveniently for power-seekers, made to usurp the place of morality.
No one knew we couldn't make Haitians into Belgians with wish-power, guns and some money;
only discrimination would say otherwise.
Learning a lesson means discriminating next time, but these officials have cleverly, maybe even competently, set it up so that no such lesson involving discrimination could be learned,
with full cover to ditch morality in the process.
You say aggression and plundering the net taxpayer is not quite moral; stop discriminating already.

Ned said at August 25, 2006 5:51 AM:

Yeah, I remember Eisenhower. When he was President, we respected him greatly. Even in retrospect, he doesn't look too bad. But after him came a run of real losers - Kennedy (Bay of Pigs, Cuban missle crisis); LBJ (Vietnam, "Great Society" boondoggles); Nixon (more Vietnam, Watergate); Ford (Nixon pardon, general ninny); Carter (what can I say?). I'll refrain from commenting on subsequent occupants of the White House - not enough perspective yet. There's an old saying that God looks out for drunks and the United States of America. It must be true - how else could we have survived with these bozos at the helm?

Rob said at August 25, 2006 3:03 PM:

I blame Eisenhower.

He was so good at the job, he made it look easy, which made people think anyone could do it. I had half wit high school teachers who thought that Ike was prez at an easy time! Like a ballerina, he made it look easy.

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