Across the Bay

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Got Michael?!

The indispensable Michael Young wrote this fantastic piece for Reason Magazine smacking around all those (like Tom Friedman) who are switching sides now when things got tough.

Michael places his confidence in the Iraqi people's politics of compromise and their ability to flesh out a decent government for themselves that will replace the hell they lived under, Hans Blix's irresponsible blitherings notwithstanding.

I must admit that whereas I hold that position as well, as is clear in my posts, I momentarily panicked when I saw the pieces by Ajami and Friedman, coupled by a relentless barrage of negativity here in the US and the hints of a speedier US withdrawal by Powell at the G-8 (and his more recent remarks about being ok with an Islamic theocracy in Iraq). I never truly appreciated the old saying about the morale at home being crucial for the war, but now I see it, and how many people (in the West, let alone the ME) are adamant to see this Iraq project fail.

There is also no pleasing critics. Take Juan Cole for instance. He is effectively critiquing anyone in Iraq who sides with the US! He has maintained that SCIRI and Sistani will lose presitge and standing because they gave the US the green light to take out Sadr in Najaf. He thinks that the US attack on Sadr was ill-advised, and that they should have let him be. But then again, the will of Iraqis who took to the streets to protest Moqtada's taking them hostage and messing with their future makes no difference. Neither does the Kurdish position!

Yet, I still see some signs that the DoS might be taking the upper hand in Iraq. See this story in the NYT for example, reporting that Chalabi's allowance has been halted. This of course delights Juan Cole, who harbors an obvious hatred towards Chalabi (as well as Wolfowitz and Feith). But the irony is that Chalabi is asking for exactly the same thing that Cole is with respect to the transfer of authority and Iraqi sovereignty:

"Ahmad Chalabi also said an agreement governing the operations of American and other foreign troops in this country must be negotiated by a sovereign Iraqi government. ... "Control of the armed forces and of the security services has to be under the Iraqis - in terms of recruitment, training, equipment, deployment and operational deployment," Chalabi told reporters. "We have to define what we mean by transfer of sovereignty.""

There is a problem with letting Colin Powell handle Iraq without the DoD people, in my view. Let me give you a hint as to why. When an Arab editorial makes the following smug remarks, you should run the other way!

"Colin Powell is the face of US diplomacy, and over the last three days at the World Economic Forum in Jordan he has been discovering, finally, that his country is digging itself deeper into a black hole in the Middle East. Arab perception of US policies and actions in the region has been communicated loud and clear. Through Powell, the US administration should, and hopefully will, go back to kindergarten to learn the basics of international relations in the Middle East."

Let's take hope in the fact that the US is bringing in more troops to Iraq from South Korea and the likelihood that this means that they're not going anywhere any time soon.