Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Real Failure

It seems appropriate that, so close to the State of the Union address, The Washington Post should run an extended analysis by Anthony Shadid under the headline "War's Arab Supporters Bitter Over Its Results." Posted from Dubai, this is an extended survey of reactions to the American presence and mission in Iraq, primarily from journalists, many of whom are under such scrutiny by their home governments that they have a deep appreciation for the values of free speech and freedom of the press (probably more of an appreciation than most of us do). These are the most important beneficiaries of any efforts to bring democratic practices to the Middle East, and they are very direct in declaring that the American efforts in this respect have failed. Here is a typical example of the language these journalists invoke:

"It's a success story for al-Qaeda, a success story for autocratic Arab regimes that made democracy look ugly in their people's eyes. They can say to their people: 'Look at the democracy that the Americans want to bring to you. Democracy is trouble. You may as well forget about what the Americans promise you. They promise you death,' " said Salameh Nematt, a Jordanian analyst and the former Washington bureau chief for the Arabic-language daily newspaper al-Hayat.

As we might expect, this analysis is not without irony. Here is part of Shadid's own account:

In the fall of Hussein's government, some still see a redeeming moment. They cite Lebanon's 15-year civil war as a hopeful analogy: In time, after breathtaking carnage, the war ended there, and Lebanon remained a troubled but recognizable country.

Yet these words have appeared on the heels of a general strike led by Hezbollah that could well throw Lebanon back into that state of civil war from which it had hoped to recover.

Unfortunately, the theme that recurs the most in these accounts is pretty much the same one we have encountered in our own "internal" arguments against the war:

But those who most fervently supported the American action bestow much of the blame on the United States itself, in a critique all the more bitter because it comes from admirers: There was no plan for the postwar period and too few troops; Iraqis played too small a role in the early days; and the Americans fumbled about as Iran, Syria and other countries outdueled them in Iraq. Fundamentally, some say, U.S. officials knew too little about the country they inherited, imagining a blank slate for their vision.

Here, at least, we see a sign of trans-national agreement. In another gesture of irony, however, it is just not the sort of agreement we had (or wanted to have) in mind!

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