David Brooks off the reservation

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/11/opinion/11BROO.html?hp

His headline: “For Iraquis to Win, the US Must Lose”. He’s advocating elections ASAP to get the US out.

Since this requires registration, here are the key grafs:

We didn’t understand the tragic irony that our power is also our weakness. As long as we seemed so mighty, others, even those we were aiming to assist, were bound to revolt. They would do so for their own self-respect. In taking out Saddam, we robbed the Iraqis of the honor of liberating themselves. The fact that they had no means to do so is beside the point.

Now, looking ahead, we face another irony. To earn their own freedom, the Iraqis need a victory. And since it is too late for the Iraqis to have a victory over Saddam, it is imperative that they have a victory over us. If the future textbooks of a free Iraq get written, the toppling of Saddam will be vaguely mentioned in one clause in one sentence. But the heroic Iraqi resistance against the American occupation will be lavishly described, page after page. For us to succeed in Iraq, we have to lose.

That means the good Iraqis, the ones who support democracy, have to have a forum in which they can defy us. If the insurgents are the only anti-Americans, then there will always be a soft spot for them in the hearts of Iraqi patriots.

That forum is an election campaign. There would be significant risks involved in moving the Iraq elections up to this fall. Parties might use their militias to coerce votes. But Iraqis have to see their candidates and themselves standing up with speeches and ideas, not just with R.P.G.'s. The insurgency would come to look anti-democratic, which would be seen to be bad, not just anti-American, which is seen to be good.

If the Iraqis do campaign this fall, then at their rallies they will jeer at us. We will still be hated around the world. But we will have succeeded in doing what we set out to do.

I normally dismiss Brooks as a hack with a very narrow viewpoint, but this is a reasonably well written and well argued piece. When you contrast the recent changes of heart by a number of conservative commentators with the rigid “stand by your Rumsfeld” of the Bush admin, you get a good example of why I loathe the administration: they can’t admit they need to change course even when people who’ve respected and supported them for years tell them they need to.

Also see Kevin Drum’s list of other prominent Republicans and conservatives who are boarding that train off the reservation:

Dan

Since the very first days in which the nation began to talk about “liberating” Iraq, I found myself concerned as to whether it’s really possible to “give” someone a revolution in which they aren’t participating in any way and have it be successful. in the long term?

George Will has been off the reservation for a couple of weeks now, but here is a column where in typical obtuse and long winded style calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16108-2004May10.html

Now given that Bush has just adamantly said that Rumsfeld is keeping his job and is a “superd” Sec Def, I wonder if Will will start applying his axioms to the White House.

Since I’m more coarse and less erudite than Will, I’ll invoke the Plumber’s Third Rule.

Dan

Since the very first days in which the nation began to talk about “liberating” Iraq, I found myself concerned as to whether it’s really possible to “give” someone a revolution in which they aren’t participating in any way and have it be successful. in the long term?[/quote]

There were two reasons why I opposed the Iraq war. I felt there was a strong case to go ahead and attack Iraq: Saddam had violated the 91 ceasefire many times, he had violated UN resolutions, he was an evil oppresive dictator who remained a long term (albet not imminent) threat to the region. But I had two big concerns which in the end convinced it would not be a good idea in the long term to invade.

One reason was my distrust of this administration, with their already-evident track record of misleading the public and misusing information, and of having a narrowly idealogical focus that doesn’t adapt to changing realities (think of the multi-purpose tax cuts). I did not trust the Bush admin to do a good job in the second half of the war, the messy part AFTER the invasion. And as we now see, that mistrust was well deserved.

The second concern was exactly as stated above. I can’t answer the question “can freedom be imposed by force?”. There are some historical examples (Japan and Germany, arguably) which suggest it can, although in a vastly different historical context. There are also many other examples (see most of post-colonial Africa, Asia, the Middle East and so on) that suggest it cannot. I still don’t know for sure in the abstract, but am convinced in the specific case of Iraq, the answer, in the long term, is no.

Dan