Friday, August 24, 2007

Desperately Seeking Scapegoats

The New York Times tells the Bush administration to stop blaming Nouri al-Maliki for its own failures in Iraq:

Blaming the prime minister of Iraq, rather than the president of the United States, for the spectacular failure of American policy, is cynical politics, pure and simple. It is neither fair nor helpful in figuring out how to end America’s biggest foreign policy fiasco since Vietnam.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has been catastrophic for Iraq ever since he took over from the equally disastrous Ibrahim al-Jaafari more than a year ago. America helped engineer Mr. Jaafari’s removal, only to get Mr. Maliki. That tells you something important about whether this is more than a matter of personalities. Mr. Jaafari, as it happens, was Iraq’s first democratically chosen leader under the American-sponsored constitution.

Continuing in the Jaafari tradition, Mr. Maliki’s government has fashioned Iraqi security forces into an instrument of Shiite domination and revenge, trying to steer American troops away from Shiite militia strongholds and leaving Sunni Arab civilians unprotected from sectarian terrorism. His government’s deep sectarian urges have also been evident in the continuing failure to enact legislation to fairly share oil revenues and the persistence of rules that bar much of the Sunni middle class from professional employment.

Sectarian fracturing even extends to the electricity grid, where armed groups have seized control of key switching stations and refused to share power with Baghdad and other provinces.

The problem is not Mr. Maliki’s narrow-mindedness or incompetence. He is the logical product of the system the United States created, one that deliberately empowered the long-persecuted Shiite majority and deliberately marginalized the long-dominant Sunni Arab minority. It was all but sure to produce someone very like Mr. Maliki, a sectarian Shiite far more interested in settling scores than in reconciling all Iraqis to share power in a unified and peaceful democracy.

That distinction is enormously significant, since President Bush’s current troop buildup is supposed to buy, at the cost of American lives, a period of relative calm for Iraqi politicians to bring about national reconciliation. How much calm it has brought is the subject of debate. But just about everyone in Washington now agrees that Mr. Maliki has made little effort to advance national unity.

The most recent intelligence report on Iraq, released yesterday, concludes that Mr. Maliki’s government is unable to govern and will become “more precarious” over the next six months to a year.

That is why there can be no serious argument for buying still more time at the cost of still more American lives and an even greater cost for Iraqis. ...

The WaPo also has a critical editorial, written by Jim Hoagland, focusing on the absurd lengths to which Pres. Bush's desperation about Iraq is driving him (i.e., the Vietnam analogy):
Desperate presidents resort to desperate rhetoric -- which then calls new attention to their desperation. President Bush joined the club this week by citing the U.S. failure in Vietnam to justify staying on in Iraq.

Bush's comparison of the two conflicts rivals Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" utterance during Watergate and Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," in producing unintended consequences of a most damaging kind for a sitting president.

It is not just that Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Wednesday drew on a shaky grasp of history, spotlighted once again his own decision to sit out the Vietnam conflict, and played straight into his critics' most emotive arguments against him and the Republican Party.

More important, Bush has called attention to the elephant that will be sitting in the room when his administration makes its politically vital report on Iraq to the nation next month. For Americans, the most important comparison will be this one: As Vietnam did, Iraq has become a failure even on its own terms -- whatever those terms are at any given moment.

Josh Marshall riffs on Hoagland:
[...] We are bigger than Iraq.

By that I do not mean we, as America, are bigger or better than Iraq as a country. I mean that that sum of our national existence is not bound up in what happens there. The country will go on. Whatever happens, we'll recover from it. And whatever might happen, there are things that matter much more to this country's future -- like whether we have a functioning military any more, whether our economy is wrecked, whether this country tears itself apart over this catastrophe. But we'll go on and look back at this and judge what happened.

Not so for the president. For him, this is it. He's not bigger than this. His entire legacy as president is bound up in Iraq. Which is another way of saying that his legacy is pretty clearly an irrecoverable shambles. That is why, as the folly of the enterprise becomes more clear, he must continually puff it up into more and more melodramatic and world-historical dimensions. A century long ideological struggle and the like. For the president a one in a thousand shot at some better outcome is well worth it, no matter what the cost. Because at least that's a one in a thousand shot at not ending his presidency with the crushing verdict history now has in store. It's also worth just letting things keep on going as they are forever because, like Micawber, something better might turn up. Going double or nothing by expanding the war into Iran might be worth it too for the same reason. For him, how can it get worse?

And when you boil all this down what it comes down to is that the president now has very different interests than the country he purports to lead.

Via Mahablog, Glenn Greenwald tells us there's more to the Maliki-bashing than just blame-shifting.

No comments: