- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

Occupation blues

Another depressing article about our botched postwar plans in Iraq: “Our experience with the Iraq occupation is a striking illustration of how a nation gets into trouble when it fails to balance its commitments and its power to carry them out.

“Long before Saddam was defeated the State Department and the Defense Department,withthe Treasury and some other departments contributing, were hard at work making our own plans and negotiating with the Allies. Yet, unfortunately,theone consideration which has been primary and controlling they ignored in making their plans. That was the size and the character of the military force which the United States could count on being able to maintain in Iraq. As a result, there is a widening and ever more unpleasant gap between what we have talked about doing in Iraq and what we are in fact able to do … Was it not then the duty of the Defense Department to prepare well in advance plans for recruiting and training a new and different kind of army — one which could and would stay in Iraq and was trained not to fight the Iraqi army which would no longer exist but to police the Iraqis who were disarmed?”

Robert Fisk? Josh Marshall? Nope. Walter Lippman, writing in January 1946 about occupied Germany. I changed all the relevant terms to make it sound like Iraq. The notion that a foreign power can provide democracy, peace and stability instantlyaftertopplinga dictatorship in a large and distant foreign country is laughable. What was different in 1946 was that no one questioned the morality of defeating Hitler and no one believed we could afford even to contemplate withdrawal or a half-baked job. Now, the domestic far left and isolationist right both want premature withdrawal from Iraq. They are Saddam’s last hope. And the only response to them has to be determination, improvisation and patience. (Thanks to blogger Robert Tagorda who dug up the 1946 column.)

Bait and switch

“President Bush sketched an expansive vision last night [at his American Enterprise Institute speech] of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq. Instead of focusing on eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or reducing the threat of terror to the United States, Mr. Bush talked about establishing a ‘free and peaceful Iraq’ that would serve as a ‘dramatic and inspiring example’ to the entire Arab and Muslim world, provide a stabilizing influence in the Middle East and even help end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The idea of turning Iraq into a model democracy in the Arab world is one some members of the administration have been discussing for a long time.” — New York Times editorial, Feb. 27, 2003.

“The White House recently began shifting its case for the Iraq war from the embarrassing unconventional weapons issue to the lofty vision of creating an exemplary democracy in Iraq.” — New York Times editorial, yesterday.

Drop the tariffs

There are two huge problems with Mr. Bush’s economic record. The first is the massive increase in domestic spending he has signed on to. Over the last two years, domestic discretionary spending has soared by 27 percent. One-quarterofgoodeconomic growth will ease the situation in the short term but do nothing to address the enormous fiscal wreckage that Mr. Bush has already created and has no current plans to reverse. Long-run structural debt is not a conservative position. It’s a reckless position — especially when you’re adding a huge new federal entitlement in senior prescription drugs and doing nothing — nothing — to reform entitlements.

Ditto the Rove tariffs on steel. Not even the White House can defend this attack on free trade in anything but the crudest political terms. The European Union and the World Trade Organization are absolutely right to demand a reversal. If Mr. Bush sticks to his protectionist guns, he really should be pummeled by real economic conservatives. But how many have the guts to stick up for their principles?

Sontag award nominee

“Indeed, today’s Washington has a whiff of Soviet ways; suffocating internal discipline, resentment of even reasoned, moderate opposition, and a refusal to admit even the tiniest error. For imperialists, read “evildoers.” With their condescending “we know best” attitude, Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest offer as close an impersonation of the Politburo as you will find. As was said of the pre-glasnost Kremlin then, so with the White House now: you know nothing, but understand everything.” — Rupert Cornwell, the Independent (London).

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