Mission improbable

In a longish “assessment(Financial Times—subscription required)”:http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1071251816954&p=1045050946495 of the Bush for­eign pol­i­cy enti­tled “Mis­sion Accom­plished?” Ger­ald Bak­er in the Finan­cial Times [sub­scrip­tion] con­cludes that Bush poli­cies may have start­ed to regain cred­i­bil­i­ty and pop­u­lar­i­ty in Decem­ber thanks to the cap­ture of Sad­dam Hus­sein, the deci­sion of Libya to renounce its WMD pro­gram and the suc­cess of James Bak­er in con­vinc­ing France, Rus­sia and Ger­many to for­give some Iraqi debt. Bak­er may be right about the elec­toral impact of these lat­est events. But do they jus­ti­fy a revi­sion of the care­ful crit­i­cisms from the “right(link to the Cato Insti­tute website)”:http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-502es.html and “left(link to the Carnegie Endow­ment website)”:http://www.ceip.org/files/Publications/IraqSummary.asp that were pub­lished in Decem­ber? I think it’s ques­tion­able whether that there was a ‘mis­sion’ in the first place in the sense of a ratio­nal and pro­por­tion­ate pro­gram to achieve defined and fea­si­ble ends. But even mea­sured against their stat­ed goals the Bush actions do not seem to me to be more jus­ti­fied in Jan­u­ary than they were in Novem­ber. # The cap­ture of Hus­sein is icon­ic, cer­tain­ly: a dic­ta­tor crushed and dragged from his bolt hole. But it is strate­gi­cal­ly irrel­e­vant. It has not added to any sense of secu­ri­ty in Iraq or else­where. Sad­dam has been a spent force for almost a year; the secu­ri­ty of Iraq con­tin­ues monot­o­nous­ly to dete­ri­o­rate, and US man­age­ment con­tin­ues to appear ad-hoc. Every­thing about the admin­is­tra­tion of post-war Iraq con­firms that lit­tle, if any, thought was giv­en to the after­math of the inevitable “vic­to­ry” by US mil­i­tary or civil­ian author­i­ties. Iraq itself, like Viet­nam before, was only a pawn in what they imag­ined was a larg­er game. They are now forced to man­age an exquis­ite­ly dif­fi­cult Iraqi real­i­ty for long enough, at least, to allow them to with­draw. They may also have begun to accept that the ‘game’ they thought they were win­ning is tak­ing place else­where (although they don’t seem to know where).
# The Libyan announce­ment was a sur­prise, as is almost every­thing that Ghaddafi does, because it has no obvi­ous ante­cedants. Although there are evi­dent­ly ele­ments in both Libya the Unit­ed States that are kooky enough to enter­tain, and even to act on, the pos­si­blil­i­ty of a US ‘Iraq-style’ inva­sion of Libya, there is no evi­dence at all that the Libyan action on WMD was moti­vat­ed by what hap­pened in Iraq. Instead, the more like­ly motives are those that led Ghaddafi to offer up scape-goats for the Locker­bie bomb­ing as long ago as 1999, to offer astro­nom­i­cal repa­ra­tions last year and even accept (?) blame are more like­ly motives. Ghaddafi, may be unsta­ble but he is not the irra­tional los­er that Sad­dam was/is; he appears to want bet­ter rela­tions with Europe and his own neig­borseven more than he fears anoth­er “US bomb­ing attack(link to BBC time­line site)”:http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/32/050.html.
# No evi­dence emerged in Decem­ber that gives a more ratio­nal foun­da­tion in ret­ro­spect to the inva­sion of Iraq. There is still no sign of any threat­ing WMD pro­gram in Iraq after 1991; there has been no dam­age to al-Quae­da as a result of the fall of the Sad­dam regime nor even any cred­i­ble evi­dence of link between them; the sit­u­a­tion in the wider Mid­dle East con­tin­ues to dete­ri­o­rate both from a secu­ri­ty point of view (ter­ror attacks in Sau­di Ara­bia), in the ter­ri­ble attri­tion across the Israel/West Bank/Gaza bound­aries, in the phys­i­cal and eco­nom­ic dec­i­ma­tion of Pales­tine and the moral destruc­tion of both the Pales­tini­ans and Israelis. Pres­i­dent Bush since his elec­tion has appeared unable to rec­og­nize, let alone define, his mis­sion in the world beyond the bor­ders of the Unit­ed States. Before Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 this was an irri­ta­tion. Since then it has been a tragedy.

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