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Monday, November 01, 2004


the war is lost?

erstwhile republican andrew sullivan points out what seems to be a growingly obvious truth: we are losing in iraq.

the article he cites in newsweek international paints a desperate picture -- far too few troops or policemen to keep peace, a nation devolving into anarchy as americans and increasingly bold insurgents stand off.

i think it's probably impossible for a guy in chicago to know what's happening in iraq on the whole. i suspect from films i've seen that most of the country is at some level of peace -- or, at least, was, though i fully concede the insurgency has spread since -- but certainly, some parts of the country are in desperate straits, and these include fallujah and parts of baghdad.

what seems, however, to be a broader problem is not peace but order. this is much the same as we've heard from afghanistan, where karzai's "national", "democratic" government in kabul isn't respected beyond that city's perimeter and most of the nation is orderly only in some cities. the same seems to have descended on iraq:

Most overseas attention has focused on the 160 or so foreigners who have been kidnapped, many of them representatives of Coalition countries. But militants and criminal gangs have also kidnapped thousands of Iraqis, most of them held for ransom. As a result, Iraqi elites are fleeing by the thousands, many to neighboring Jordan. "Iraq is there for the bandits now. Anyone with the financial ability to do so has left," says Amer Farhan, who departed last summer with his father, Sadeq, a factory owner, and all of their family.
this is no small thing. no putative democracy long remains free without order. if fear becomes the dominant lens through which iraqis see their society, it doesn't matter much what their highest aspirations (or ours) may be -- they will appeal to whatever authority they can find for stability.

that authority is almost surely religious -- and the rise of sectarian religion is the force that would be most likely unbind iraq as a nation, sending it into civil war. this is the turks great worry -- as it means an independent kurdistan in northern iraq, which they feel they can not tolerate, even as israel foments nationalist sentiment there.

it seems the lack of men and materiel that characterized the invasion and occupation of iraq may have very far-reaching consequences. neither bush nor kerry is going to do what would be needed to restore order -- triple the number of americans in iraq and commit to a decade or more of involvement. so can the situation be rectified? or is it lost?

i fear the latter.

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