Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Beyond Reproach or Morally Culpable?

"Beyond reproach Darth Cheney & the Bush Empire is, so go into exile, I must."

Over at Chapomatic, the new sport is taking Larry Diamond and/or his criticism's of the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war, to task (scroll the comments as well). Which is cool with me -- I love tough criticism. And Chap made this excellent point, quoting Norman Geras:

"It brought home to me that I have never seen, in all the voluminous discussion since the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s rule, anything from the anti-war camp (perhaps I just haven’t read widely enough) that made a distinction between mistakes and avoidable mistakes, or mistakes and culpable mistakes. Plainly what happened at Abu Ghraib was culpable and was worse than a mistake. But on the sundry other matters, unless you have a distinction between avoidable and culpable mistakes and other kinds of mistake, including for example mistakes understandable in the circumstances, unless you allow that some of the mistakes may have been due to the scope and nature of the undertaking itself, it suggests one of two things: either that the undertaking could have been carried out altogether smoothly and unproblematically; or that the criticism of mistakes is motivated more by an impulse to oppose than by a desire for the undertaking to succeed.

You pays your money and you takes
your choice."

That's a fair criticism. But contrary to Thomas Friedman and Geras above, I'm certainly one liberal (and I think most of us are this way) who wants the best for the people of Iraq. It's from that center which we argue and emote, not some cynical fantasy about W crashing and burning here at home.

So the question which Diamond proposed, if not answered properly nor adequately in his book is essentially this (my phrasing):

Is it possible that the original military victory in Iraq was indeed squandered by the ineptitude of the Bush Administration? Did they fail to put the best possible plan for Iraq’s domestic SECURITY into play as opposed to what they thought was the best possible plan for short-term domestic political interests
and long-term US geopolitical/economic interests? And does that suggested failure entail that the situation in Iraq, given currently availble American assets and political consensus, is essentially irretrievable?

Or, as Geras would put it, were the actions and/or policies of the Bush Administration and its Defense Department which have proven to be demonstrably negative in outcome, mere "mistakes: with unintended and/or unforeseeable consequences, or is there significant culpability?

Consider the following:

Was it a "mistake" to secure the Oil Ministry first, considering the foreseeable message that would send as well as the foreseeable misallocation of assets when it comes to "first things first" when engaged in "regime change"?

Was it a "mistake" to dis Sistani's call for direct elections rather than push our notion for a parliamentary caucus based on
ethnicity/religious sect?

Was it a "mistake" to apparently push for privatization first and security second as reports on the D-plus-6 months would indicate?

Was it a "mistake" to rely so heavily on private contractors?

Was it a "mistake" to de-militarize the entire Iraqi army with no plan, no place for the disbanded, yet still-well-armed and unemployed soldiers, to go?

Was it a "mistake" not to make a "no
permanent bases" pledge prior to and during the occupation?

Was it a "mistake" not to demolish Abu Grahib as a matter of principal and/or political theater immediately after the invasion or, at the very least, most certainly after the American scandal? (Geras does concede the US is culpable for the conduct at Abu Grahib)

Was it a "mistake" to discharge 300 servicemen, who were foreign language specialists, because they were gay?

Was it a "mistake" not to adhere to the Powell Doctrine? ("Essentially, the Doctrine expresses that military action should be used only as a last resort and only if there is a clear risk to national security by the intended target; the force, when used, should be overwhelming and disproportionate to the force used by the enemy; there must be strong support for the campaign by the general public; and there must be a clear exit strategy from the conflict in which the military is engaged.") For me, this is the most egregious mistake of the whole affair.

Was it a "mistake" to rely so heavily on Iraqi expatriates like Chalabi and "Curveball" for intel and fortune-telling?

Was it a "mistake" to knowingly play up the WMD card at the expense of downplaying other foreseeable realities and costs of war?

Was it a "mistake" to not get a second resolution from the Security Council and/or to have created a broader international
consensus/coalition for invasion/occupation before D-Day? Would George Herbert Walker Bush and James Baker been able to do it better and smarter (had they been so inclined to invade to begin with)?

Is there any significant culpability afoot or are the forementioned items mere "mistakes"?

Or is it that the Bush Administration, being Ordained By Jesus Hisself, simply beyond reproach?