Rosa Brooks: Iraq is broke beyond repairThe Pottery Barn rule won't cut it any more -- we have to get out before more damage is done.Rosa Brooks
November 24, 2006
IN 1789, GEORGE Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation. After giving "sincere and humble thanks" for the many blessings our young country had enjoyed, he urged Americans to "unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions."
If Washington were alive to express those sentiments today, he'd be pilloried by Bill O'Reilly as a member of the "Blame America First Club." National transgressions? Who, us?
But, yes, even the U.S.A. screws up sometimes. The invasion of Iraq, for instance, will go down in history as a national transgression of epic proportions — and our original screw-up (an unjustified invasion based on cooked intelligence books) was compounded many times over by our failure to plan for the reconstruction of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
I visited Iraq in August 2003, back when it was still possible to believe that some good would come out of the U.S. invasion. True, we hadn't found any weapons of mass destruction — but Hussein was out, and ordinary Iraqis were eager to embark on a freer and more prosperous future. On the pedestal that had once supported the famous statue of Hussein (toppled in April 2003 by jubilant Iraqis, with a little help from U.S. troops), an Iraqi graffiti artist left the Americans a pointed message, written in blood-red paint: "ALL DONNE GO HOME."
We should have done just that.
But at this point, our presence is manifestly making things worse. Ask the Iraqis, who ought to know. In a poll released this week, 78% of Iraqis told researchers that the U.S. military presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing"; 71% said they want U.S. troops out within a year; 58% said they think inter-ethnic violence will diminish if the U.S. withdraws; and 61% think that a U.S. withdrawal will improve day-to-day security for average Iraqis. We should listen to them, this time.
And no, adding another 20,000 or 30,000 troops won't magically turn the tide. It's too little, too late. Adding another 200,000 to 300,000 troops might make a difference, but troops don't grow on trees. They grow in families, and this war has already damaged thousands of those.
We can withdraw quickly or slowly, all at once or in stages, but we should withdraw. If it makes anyone feel better, we can call it "strategic redeployment," and we can and should look for ongoing ways to use our financial resources and our technical expertise to help ordinary Iraqis and any legitimate, nonaggressive Iraqi government.
Before the war, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told President Bush of the so-called Pottery Barn rule: "You break it, you own it." But Iraq is not a decorative dinner plate. We broke it, but we can't fix it, and we can never own it. All we can do now is leave and apologize for the terrible damage we've done.
It's hard to imagine our current president asking anyone's forgiveness for our "national transgressions," but this Thanksgiving season would be a pretty good time for him to start.
25 November 2006
Rosa Brooks argues against Colin Powell's assertion that, as far as Iraq goes, if you break it, you buy it. And I tend to agree with her. Though I do think in general the USA is not doing enough to reach out to the world community to ask for help in solving the Iraq crisis:
Posted by Robert