The battle's done, and we kind of won, so we sound our victory cheer - where do we go from here?
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Friday, November 21, 2003
Sorry for not posting lately... incredibly busy week. Hopefully will have some breathing space soon.
But, for the record - no, Stephen Hayes's piece based on Douglas Feith's leaked memo about Saddam and al-Qaeda isn't the least bit convincing, except in one regard: if we assume that Feith cherry-picked the best intel available to make the case linking Saddam and al-Qaeda, and this really is the best they've got, then it does increase confidence in the already very strong case that no such links existed.
That's it for now. Hopefully the aardvark will return to regular blogging sooner rather than later!
Monday, November 17, 2003
Well, the more I look at the American plan for transferring sovereignty, the worse it looks. As you'll see in the post below, my first inclination was to be guardedly optimistic. But now, that optimism is rapidly fading. Here's why: the "selectorate" approach promises to be a fiasco in every way that matters. Given the widespread distrust of American intentions and skepticism about American sincerity about democracy, the absolute last thing the US should be doing in Iraq is introducing this kind of pseudo-democratic "town councils" approach. You don't have to be a professional cynic to see how easily such a system can be manipulated. And will be. And even if it isn't (yeah, right), everyone will believe that it is. Which means that the government that results will only have dubious legitimacy, and will remain open to accusations of being an American proxy. If Chalabi or someone like him were elected in real elections, that would be one thing - but to be "selected" in this way just confirms everyone's worst fears about American intentions. What a disastrous missed opportunity, if Bush really does proceed in this way.
Sheesh, go away into an information black hole for a weekend, come back and find out that a lot actually happened over the weekend. The new plan for a quicker transition to Iraqi sovereignty strikes me as a good thing, but I haven't really had time to work through the details yet.
From what I can gather, the good things include a firm commitment to creating a sovereign Iraqi government and - crucially - dissolving the IGC and the CPA. One of the biggest things about which I worried was that the US would try to just turn the IGC into an Iraqi government - and, some Chalabi comments aside, this doesn't seem to be the case. Some members of the IGC will easily win - the Kurdish leaders, for example. Others, like Chalabi and Allawi, will win only if the US engineers the outcome.
Which brings me to the single biggest bad part - the really terrible idea of using a tightly controlled selectorate instead of a general electorate in the process, thereby avoiding full democracy and increasing the American ability to engineer results. This is the kind of thing that looks good in a narrow way - who wouldn't want to be able to shape the results you want - but could be disastrous for the bigger picture, which has to be winning widespread support for a legitimate new government. If the process is seen as manipulated by the US, then it would critically undermine the legitimacy of the new body. Iraq needs real democracy, even if it produces some results which the administration finds uncomfortable.
I'll have more to say on this later - these are just some early thoughts. I'm not one of those who is going to attack Bush for doing this for electoral advantage, even if this is very likely true. A rapid return to Iraqi sovereignty is important regardless of why Bush is doing it. For now, I take this as a tentatively positive step. The Bush team has taken it only under grave duress, and all spin aside it clearly represents the failure and exhaustion of their original plans. But I also am extremely wary of falling into the trap of the liberal hawks - supporting a plan of this administration by projecting my own motivations onto them, and then being surprised when they don't follow through in the way that I wanted.
UPDATE: if it's true, as Josh Marshall is reporting, that Bush is seriously thinking about internationalizing the occupation through NATO, bully for him! Of course, this goes back to that whole question about the meaning of internationalizing - if it's just troops in support of an American occupation, it isn't going anywhere. And I have a hard, hard time believing that the Bush team would entertain anything else. If this is true - and I'm skeptical - then their internal intelligence must be even worse than what we've seen in public (which would be, well, pretty darn bad).