Sunday, August 24, 2003

Friedman on Iraq: Failing at the Big One

Fighting 'The Big One'

We may fail, but not because we have attracted terrorists who understand what's at stake in Iraq. We may fail because of the utter incompetence with which the Pentagon leadership has handled the postwar. (We don't even have enough translators there, let alone M.P.'s, and the media network we've set up there to talk to Iraqis is so bad we'd be better off buying ads on Al Jazeera.) We may fail because the Bush team thinks it can fight The Big One in the Middle East — while cutting taxes at home, shrinking the U.S. Army, changing the tax code to encourage Americans to buy gas-guzzling cars that make us more dependent on Mideast oil and by gratuitously alienating allies.

We may fail because to win The Big One, we need an American public, and allies, ready to pay any price and bear any burden, but we have a president unable or unwilling to summon either.

In the matter of Iraq, I've been somewhat to the left of Friedman. Still, he's made some good arguments. Back when I merely distrusted and disliked George Bush, I conceded I could imaging "facts"that might have led me to support invasion -- but I had no trustworthy access to any such facts. (Later it turned out neither did George Bush, but that's another matter.)

So I'm not always that far away from Friedman. He knows much more than most, and he spends time in Iraq and the middle east. I always listen to him.

Here I'm in full agreement with him. To invade Iraq was a debateable matter, but the mishandling of friends (gratuitious alienation is the perfect phrase) and the abysmal incompetence of the Rumsfeldians is not a matter for debate. To make such a weighty and terrible choice, but then to plan the consequences on the basis of wishful thinking, ignorance, and malice...

I only hope that those "entangled networks" I write of are as strong as I speculate -- so that wiser heads than Bush/Rumsfeld will see us through. (What the heck is Bill Gates doing with his billions anyway? Can't he buy us a better government?!)

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