I usually agree with Josh, but this time I think he's wrong when he
says that things aren't all that bad in Iraq and Iran. I may be an
alarmist, but the Bush Cartel has damaged our international relations,
trade opportunities, the future of an all-volunteer and the American
economy. There is no way to save face. Forget the macho personae and
get our kids the hell out of there.
(August 20th, 2003 -- 6:16 PM EDT // link)
Here's a comment from retired General George
Joulwan, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander
in Europe. The quote's from Larry King Live ...
Let me be clear -- what I think, and
this is my own personal opinion here,
what is -- we're in danger. It's not
there yet. But if we're in the careful
here, we're in danger of losing the
initiative in Iraq, and to a degree in
Afghanistan. And that concerns me.
We had the initiative going into
Baghdad. We had a whole groundswell
with us. But now that is turning. So
it's extremely important, I think, that
we reassess how to bring in the
international community. NATO right
now is in Afghanistan and Kabul. I
think we need to broaden this and
really get a secure environment in that
country for the agencies to operate
from the U.N., NGOs, et cetera. That
is what concerns me. I don't see that
happening right now.
I think there are very few retired military leaders
who disagree with that proposition. Indeed, there
seem to be very, very few people outside the Office
of the Secretary of Defense who don't think we have
too few troops in
One obvious reason to
have more troops is that
providing a secure
environment is a sine
qua non of almost
everything else we want
to accomplish in Iraq.
Another is that it would
give the occupation less
of a US face, and thus
help deflate the charges of neo-colonialism which
hover over this whole enterprise.
But there's another important reason.
One of the medium to long-term challenges we face,
I think, is that very few people in other countries
have much invested in our success. I don't think
most Europeans want us to fail exactly. But I think
that the way this whole operation has gone down has
made a lot of people want to see us at least get our
nose bloodied or at a minimum fall rather short of a
One might say, well, if the French think that, they
suck. And maybe they do. But as a practical matter,
it doesn't really matter if they suck or if this is a
good moral argument against them. One reason is
that it's not just the French. And, more to the point,
it'll be very difficult to pull this off if everyone else
around the world is sitting on the sideliness, quietly
relishing our stumbles.
By internationalizing this operation -- on our own
terms, but still internationalizing it -- we'll get other
countries invested in its eventual success.
The rejoinder to this argument might be that, well, all
those other countries will pervert the enteprise to
their own weenieful, relativistic, Brussels-esque
ends. But, handled right, I don't think we have much
to worry about. One of the great failings of the
right's hostility to international institutions -- most
notably, the UN -- is the inability or unwillingness to
recognize how dominant our voice is in almost every
international institution we claim membership in.
What I fear is that the administration is going to wait
too long to make a course correction.
Despite some rough patches we've hit so far, I think
it would still very much be possible for the president
to internationalize the operation and have it appear as
a grand gesture on our part rather than something we
were forced to do because we were unable to
manage the situation on our own. We could even
present it as something we had intended to do all
along. And though few would likely believe us, most
probably be eager
enough to participate
that they'd being willing
not to make too much of
Unfortunately, if we wait
till things really get out
of hand, it really will
look like a failure for us
to call in other countries
and we'll be far less able
to call the shots. If things get bad enough, other
countries that are now willing to send in troops
might look at us and say, "You broke it, you fix it."
The key is that there is absolutely no strategic,
moral, or diplomatic reason why internationalizing
the occupation has to be seen as a failure. Quite the
contrary. The problem is that many people in the
administration see it as exactly that. And if we wait
too long to do what is actually in our own insterests,
their own flawed vision -- that internationalization
means a strategic failure for the US -- could end up
being a self-fulfilling prophecy.