Thursday, June 29, 2006

Why doesn't George W. Bush want to win in Iraq?

The Bush administration has far less interest in winning a war than in fighting one. The failure to put enough troops on the ground from day one, the failure to plan for a post-war Iraq, the failure to put qualified people in charge of and to administer the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the failure of the CPA to quickly do the necessary political work during the short time the window of opportunity was that open to them following the downfall of the Baathist regime, the failure to do the necessary reconstruction work for the Iraqi infrastructure in a timely manner and using reconstruction monies to employ Iraqis rather than squandering those funds on American contractors who failed at their tasks, and so on only points to an administration acting in bad faith.

However, that’s only half of it. There is necessary political work on the domestic front that should have been and still needs to be done. The failure to provide the type of leadership to unite the nation behind this war has been utterly lacking. Nothing is more important during a time of war than to do what has to be done to unite a nation. Not only does this administration seem to do whatever they can to keep the country divided but there are times they almost seem to lose interest in the war while American troops are fighting and dying.

Peter Beinart writes in this week’s New Republic, “From the beginning, Bush has preferred the war on terrorism as a wedge issue to the war on terrorism as a unifying national cause.” The debate in the U.S. Senate last week turned into a shouting match over very little of substance. The president himself sunk to the “cut and run” rhetoric for partisan purposes forcing Democrats to react in kind. The nation is not well served by this behavior by anyone in national leadership. However, it is the president who sets the example. As Beinart puts it, “It's hard to serve the national interest when the president of the United States does not.” Beinart writes,

Why doesn't George W. Bush want to win in Iraq? Seriously. The past several
weeks have forced him to choose between two big goals: demonizing Democrats to help the GOP retain control of Congress and fostering a domestic climate that
gives the new Iraqi government the best chance to survive. And, again and again,
he has chosen door number one. This is what ex-Bush officials like Paul O'Neill
and John DiIulio warned us about--and what Hurricane Katrina reaffirmed: that
what matters in this administration is not policy, but politics. For all his
talk about America's historical mission to defeat tyranny and spread freedom,
there is only one mission to which George W. Bush has shown consistent devotion: winning elections. He acts less like the president than like the head of the
Republican National Committee.

Success of the mission and the withdrawal of American troops are going to require some compromises by the American people including, but not limited to, amnesty for Iraqi insurgents who may be responsible for the deaths of American servicemen. Otherwise, the conflict will never end. However, the American people are not being prepared for this by the administration.
For Americans, however, resisting a public withdrawal date is only the
beginning. The truly gut-wrenching part will be looking the other way if Iraq's
government allows insurgents who murdered heroic young Americans to go free. In blood-soaked societies, some kind of amnesty is crucial. Amnesties helped
overcome the Islamist insurgency that ravaged Algeria in the 1990s, and they
helped peacefully transfer power in South Africa, through the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission. Like black South Africans who saw their families
slaughtered under apartheid, some Iraqi Shia and Kurds who saw their families
slaughtered by Saddam Hussein will have to accept a public acknowledgement of
the truth but no full justice. And some grieving American families will have to
as well. The United States can get Iraqi leaders to fudge this on paper. But, on
the ground, an amnesty for some violent anti-U.S. insurgents may prove crucial
to persuading Sunni nationalists to break with the foreign jihadists, lay down
their arms, and give Iraq's new government a chance at life.

You can read Beinart’s essay here.

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