TOO MANY CHIEFS AND NO ONE IN CHARGE
Much has been written- some of it hysterical, some of it pollyannish - about the current uprisings in Iraq. Set aside the complexities of Iraqi society for one moment because recent American occupation policy would be counterproductive if implemented virtually anywhere. I say this as a fervent supporter of the war who considered Saddam's Iraq to be part of one interrrelated set of strategic threats facing the United States that encompass the War on Terror - we are disorganized, uncertain and are losing our way at a critical moment.
I'm not certain which conflict is most responsible for the current debacle - Rumsfeld vs. Powell, Bremer vs. Abizaid
, Army vs. Marines, neocons vs. pragmatists but I do know President Bush is responsible for not choosing one approach to occupation policy in principle and insisting that we stick with it !
. Iraqis are coming to see the occupation as ineffective yet brutal, trigger-happy yet weak, determined yet confused - a dangerous, lurching, incomprehensible giant that they wish to depart yet fear will abandon them in the lurch.
It did not have to be this way.
What sense was there - militarily speaking - in the midst of an important punitive operation against Fajullah to suddenly and incompetently provoke the Sadrist lunatic fringe while allowing al-Sadr free movement to set an uprising in motion ? Al-Sadr, the Shiite equivalent of a noisy, up and coming " punk " out to make his bones has been elevated from a minor nuisance to a potent symbol of anti-Americanism. Does Somalia and Mohammed Farrah Aidid not ring any bells within the bureaucracy ?
If Fajullah was going to face an operation along the lines of Abraham Lincoln's General Order 100
then the task should have been taken to completion or not begun at all. Now we stand with hundreds of Iraqi dead but American forces prematurely halted but still not in control of the city and seemingly afraid or incapable of asserting martial law. Al-Sadr, instead of being dead or in jail, is going to be perhaps going to be allowed a dignified, negotiated surrender that makes a mockery of CPA bluster. What conclusion It is better to be feared than loved but not if you make yourself hated.
Worse. The headless occupating policy will make America both hated and ridiculous. A mean achievement that. Mr. Bush needs to get engaged or lose the war- a war that Mr. Kerry and his party have no stomach for any more than Spain's Socialists or Labor's dissident backbenchers.