Friday, January 05, 2007

Getting serious about Iraq - too late? (Juan Cole)

Juan Cole notes that the whole line-up of key US military and diplomatic figures dealing directly or indirectly with Iraq has been thoroughly shaken up.
The professionals take charge. Bush is bringing in Ryan Crocker, a distinguished career foreign service officer, as the new US ambassador to Iraq. And Gen. David Petraeus will replace Gen. Casey as top ground commander in Iraq. Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing ambassador to Iraq, will go as ambassador to the United Nations, replacing the lying blowhard John Bolton.
Rather than simply dismissing these changes as inconsequential, which is a reaction that many of his regular readers might have expected, Cole wishes that it had happened years ago.
I'm stricken with a case of the "what ifs" and "if onlys"! What if Gates had been at the Pentagon in 2003 and Petraeus had been in charge of the US military in Iraq and Crocker had been there instead of Paul Bremer? These are competent professionals who know what they are doing. Gates is clear-sighted enough to tell Congress that the US is not winning in Iraq, unlike his smooth-talking, arrogant and flighty predecessor. Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul. Crocker has been ambassador to Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, and knows the region intimately (as does Khalilzad). Bremer had been ambassador to . . . Holland. [....]
Some of Juan Cole's fans will probably be surprised the tone of this discussion. Many of them have forgotten--or never knew--that Cole did not oppose the 2003 Iraq war (though he didn't actively support it, either), he welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath regime, and he genuinely wanted the post-Saddam reconstruction of Iraq to succeed. (For some details, see here & here & here.) Unlike too many opponents and supporters of the Iraq war, Cole has always been deeply concerned about the sufferings and hopes of Iraqis under Saddam and after.

Like many of the rest of us, Cole was dumbfounded by the spectacular incompetence with which the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld team prepared for and conducted the reconstruction of Iraq, which helped to turn what was always going to be a difficult challenge into a full-blown fiasco. (It was predictable that they would handle it incompetently, but the extent of their incompetence and irresponsibility has been astounding.)

Several of these new appointments do send a signal that the Bush administration is finally starting to take Iraq seriously. For me, this is especially true of the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus as the US military commander in Iraq. (Anyone is better than Rumsfeld, but I can't say that Gates in particular impresses me. With respect to the post of US ambassador to Iraq, my impression is that they couldn't have done much better than Khalilzad--though by the time he arrived, the situation had already deteriorated enormously.) But it would have been much better if they had started to get serious a long time ago--ideally, during the run-up to war in 2002. Now it may be too late.
I wish these seasoned professionals well. They know what they are getting into, and it is an index of their courage and dedication that they are willing to risk their lives in an effort that the American public has largely written off as a costly failure. If the US in Iraq can possibly have a soft landing, these are the individuals who can pull it off. It is a big if.
Amen.

--Jeff Weintraub
===========================
Juan Cole (Informed Comment)
January 5, 2007
The Adults take Charge
The Reality Based Community Strikes Back in Iraq


The professionals take charge. Bush is bringing in Ryan Crocker, a distinguished career foreign service officer, as the new US ambassador to Iraq. And Gen. David Petraeus will replace Gen. Casey as top ground commander in Iraq. Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing ambassador to Iraq, will go as ambassador to the United Nations, replacing the lying blowhard John Bolton.

I'm stricken with a case of the "what ifs" and "if onlys"! What if Gates had been at the Pentagon in 2003 and Petraeus had been in charge of the US military in Iraq and Crocker had been there instead of Paul Bremer? These are competent professionals who know what they are doing. Gates is clear-sighted enough to tell Congress that the US is not winning in Iraq, unlike his smooth-talking, arrogant and flighty predecessor. Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul. Crocker has been ambassador to Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, and knows the region intimately (as does Khalilzad). Bremer had been ambassador to . . . Holland. Despite all the talk of the resurgence of the Neoconservatives with their "surge" (actually ramped up occupation) plan, this team is the farthest from Neoconservative desires that you could possibly get.

I wish these seasoned professionals well. They know what they are getting into, and it is an index of their courage and dedication that they are willing to risk their lives in an effort that the American public has largely written off as a costly failure. If the US in Iraq can possibly have a soft landing, these are the individuals who can pull it off. It is a big if.

What they are up against comes through clearly in the reporting on the situation in Iraq on Thursday. Police found 47 bodies in the streets of Baghdad on Thursday. Guerrillas set off two car bombs in the al-Mansur district, killing 13 persons and injuring 22. The NYT gives a graphic eyewitness account of the gruesome aftermath.

Guerrillas killed a US soldier in Baghdad with small arms fire.

Sunni Arab guerrillas also launched a mortar attack on the Shiite Shu'la district of Baghdad, injuring 9 civilians. The NYT piece mentions several other such attacks, as does Reuters. Police found four bodies in Hilla, in the mixed Sunni and Shiite province of Babel (Hilla is largely Shiite).

The Associated Press has been vindicated in having reported on an incident of sectarian violence based on an interview with Jamil Hussein. The Iraqi government initially denied he existed, and the US military put pressure on AP to retract. Now it turns out he does exist but will be punished for speaking to the press!

Gee, it turns out AP is more reliable on Iraq than Michelle Malkin after all. Since she's so eager to intern people, maybe she can do penance by putting herself under house arrest for the rest of the war as a punishment for spreading war propaganda.

The diary of the last two months in the life of the director of the Iraqi National Library and Archives. It is harrowing.

posted by Juan @ 1/05/2007 06:32:00 AM

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