Administration admits its goals in Iraq have been “unrealistic”

For the last two years, even as the supporters of President Bush’s democratization policy kept telling us that success and victory were just around the corner and that we had passed the turning point, and even that democracy had already arrived in Iraq, which they were, unbelievably, claiming had happened after the holding of a single election in Iraq last January (“the exhilaration of freedom” they cried), and that the only thing that could keep us from victory was the anti-Bush left, and that we just had to believe, while all this was happening, I have consistently pointed out that we were not heading for victory over the terror insurgency and didn’t even have a plausible strategy to achieve victory, and that we were not heading for an Iraqi democracy. With each new “turning point,” such as Fallujah, such as the election, such as the formation of a government, the Bush supporters would again go into triumphalist overdrive, and I would point out once again the still unchanged realities that made victory impossible, at least as long as we stayed within our existing framework of thought. Now, according to an article by Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer in the August 14 Washington Post, senior administration officials are admitting that what I’ve been saying all along is true. The admission is driven by two paramount realities that even the most devoted Bush champions can no longer deny: the continuation of the terror insurgency (i.e., no victory); and the Iraqis’ choice of a sharia constitution (i.e., no freedom). Here are excerpts from the article:

U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq

The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security [i.e., the terror insurgency is not defeated] or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

“What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground,” said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. “We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we’re in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning.”…

But the realities of daily life are a constant reminder of how the initial U.S. ambitions have not been fulfilled in ways that Americans and Iraqis once anticipated. Many of Baghdad’s 6 million people go without electricity for days in 120-degree heat. Parents fearful of kidnapping are keeping children indoors.

Barbers post signs saying they do not shave men, after months of barbers being killed by religious extremists….

The ferocious debate over a new constitution has particularly driven home the gap between the original U.S. goals and the realities after almost 28 months. The U.S. decision to invade Iraq was justified in part by the goal of establishing a secular and modern Iraq that honors human rights and unites disparate ethnic and religious communities.

But whatever the outcome on specific disputes, the document on which Iraq’s future is to be built will require laws to be compliant with Islam. Kurds and Shiites are expecting de facto long-term political privileges. And women’s rights will not be as firmly entrenched as Washington has tried to insist, U.S. officials and Iraq analysts say.

“We set out to establish a democracy, but we’re slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic,” said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. “That process is being repeated all over.”

U.S. officials now acknowledge that they misread the strength of the sentiment among Kurds and Shiites to create a special status. The Shiites’ request this month for autonomy to be guaranteed in the constitution stunned the Bush administration, even after more than two years of intense intervention in Iraq’s political process, they said.

“We didn’t calculate the depths of feeling in both the Kurdish and Shiite communities for a winner-take-all attitude,” said Judith S. Yaphe, a former CIA Iraq analyst at the National Defense University.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 14, 2005 02:00 AM | Send

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