Click Here North Star Writers Group
Syndicated Content.
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Feature Page
David J. Pollay - The Happiness Answer
Cindy Droog - The Working Mom
The Laughing Chef
Mike Ball - What I've Learned So Far
Bob Batz - Senior Moments
D.F. Krause - Business Ridiculous
Stephen Silver
  Stephen's Column Archive

November 29, 2006

Yes, We Have Failed in Iraq


As America awaits the findings of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group as to how, exactly, to proceed in Iraq, I have at last come to the conclusion that our country’s objective in that country has failed. Whatever our intentions, and whatever our reasons for the original invasion, the window for ultimate success in turning Iraq into a stable democracy has, sadly, closed.


I do not reach this conclusion lightly, or gleefully. In fact, I was an unabashed supporter of the original invasion. I honestly believed at the time in the international consensus that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, and that the spread of democracy to the Middle East was something that should be encouraged. For a period of six months or so in late 2002/early 2003, I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t get into at least one really long argument about the war.


Not many people are arguing about Iraq anymore. The multi-pronged insurgency has increased in size, power and self-sufficiency, turning the nascent democracy into a full-fledged, sectarian civil war, one that merely in its infancy has already claimed thousands of lives. When NBC News declared on Nov. 27 that it would refer to the conflict as a “civil war,” it was notable only for coming about a year too late.

Was this inevitable? It’s hard to say. Could an invading army have gone into Iraq, captured Saddam Hussein, pacified the country and established a stable, coherent democracy in the space of a couple of years? I’m not convinced that the answer is no. Of course it’s great that Saddam is rotting in a jail cell, and probably facing execution, rather than continuing to rule Iraq. It’s just too bad that what has replaced him may very well be even worse.


Also unfortunately, you go to war with the president you have. And President Bush’s mishandling of the war, from its first day, will be the ultimate legacy of his sorry presidency.


I’m not convinced that the Bush Administration “rushed to war” or “lied us into war.” It was, in fact, the longest debate over whether or not to go to war in our nation’s history, and there was actually a consensus across the parties - and across the world - that Saddam had WMDs.


But Bush and his cronies did, indeed, lie, after the war started. They lied about the progress of the war, they lied about the severity of the situation and they lied about the motives of those who opposed or even questioned the administration’s strategy. Then, when they finally abandoned the notion of “stay the course,” they lied about having advocated staying the course.


Dick Cheney argued, over a year ago, that the insurgency was in its “death throes.” Sean Hannity said, as recently as six months ago, that America is “on the verge of victory.” And throughout it all, liberals and the news media have been blamed for any and all negative news, including the spread of the blatantly false notions that criticism of the war equals criticism of the troops. Donald Rumsfeld spent three years avoiding the truth of what was happening in Iraq – and it took an electoral disaster to force his ultimate exit.


And perhaps worst of all, Bush and Rumsfeld’s mis-prosecution of the war may have killed the hopes for democracy in the Mideast for a generation or more. The Middle Eastern democracy project was a worthy and necessary one, especially after the events of 9/11 and this decade’s flareups in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Another liberal who originally supported the war, Peter Beinart, perhaps said it best last week. Writing in a special issue of The New Republic in which more than 20 leading thinkers expounded on what to do next, Beinart stated that we have reached a point in Iraq in which we can neither stay nor leave. The best argument for staying is that we cannot leave and vice versa.


None of TNR’s 20 writers have a perfect solution, and needless to say, neither do I. But after more than three years of arguments about whether Iraq is or isn’t Vietnam, America may very well have walked into a situation that is even worse than Vietnam.


To offer feedback on this column, click here.

© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # SS19. Request permission to publish here.