hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005
2 points re: Bush's execution of Iraq war + Democratic critique

quick summary, then the two points:

The fundamental errors Bush made in executing the Iraq war were not logistical & diplomatic: they were political & moral. And in hindsight the two key criticisms Democrats should have been making regarding Bush's execution of the Iraq war were: 1) we need to hold elections ASAP, & we need to deal with legitimate, trusted Iraqi leaders instead of corrupt puppets 2) we need to show the Iraqi people that we value the truth, and we value all human life, and our enemies don't.

Instead, the two completely ineffectual criticisms that Democratic leaders in fact made were 1) we need to work more with the UN & our allies 2) Rumsfeld didn't send enough troops. We need to figure out why Democratic leaders came up with such ineffective & unpersuasive criticisms, and why they stuck with them for two years, even after their ineffectiveness had been demonstrated repeatedly.

Point #1:

The top two CW criticisms of Bush's execution of the Iraq war are 1) not enough troops, + sheer carelessness & lack of preparation 2) should have done it with allies. But, IMO these two are not the most important reasons Iraq has turned into such a disaster. The most important mistake the Bush administration made in Iraq was not holding real elections ASAP (July 2003?), and trying to install corrupt puppets, rather than trying to deal with legitimate, trusted Iraqi leaders.

Look at the process by which Hamid Karzai was chosen as the post-Taliban leader of a new Afghanistan. Look at the process by which Chalabi, the IGC and now Allawi were chosen as the post-Saddam leaders of a new Iraq. Compare the results. *That* is the orginal sin of Bush's Iraq intervention, not "not enough troops & allies"

The right viewpoint for liberals on Iraq was not "evil, immoral quagmire", the right viewpoint was "Costly and probably inefficient potential foreign aid project which could do a lot of good with good luck and good management, but also could wind up killing a lot of people with bad luck or bad management." On the whole we have had good, though not outstanding, luck. But we have had, IMO, bad management, with the result that the situation has been slowly deteriorating since May 2003. Hopefully if the Sistani-backed slate comes in after the January elections, the situation will start getting better.

And on the subject is about how Democrats should have "handled" Iraq & national security issues in general, here is a long comment regarding that on the blog "Liberals Against Terrorism": http://www.liberalsagainstterrorism.com/drupal/?q=node/104#comment-376

Point #2:

George Orwell said of WWII, "In the last analysis our only claim to victory is that if we win the war we shall tell fewer lies about it than our adversaries"

The second crucial mistake, in addition to not holding early elections, that Bush made in waging the Iraq war was not establishing the principle that we value the truth and we value human life, even the lives of our enemies, while our enemies don't. Immediately on winning the war, we should have announced the formation of a Truth & Reconciliation committee, dedicated to rigorously accounting for every Iraqi life lost during the war, including Iraqi civilian & combat deaths, as well as every Iraqi killed during Saddam's reign, including the first gulf war. If we had done that, the powerful messages we might havesent to the Iraqi people is "your long national nightmare is over" & "the truth shall set you free". Instead the message we have sent over the past two years is that we don't particularly care how many Iraqis we have to kill, as long as the end result is something we can call a victory. That is of course unfair to the many heroic US troops & comanders who have taken care & great personal risks in order to minimize loss of life in accomplishing the mission, but it is true nonetheless. When we carefully account for US deaths and injuries in Iraq, the message that is sent is that we care about US deaths and that we value each life. When we refuse to release our best estimates of Iraqi deaths on the flimsy grounds that "the enemy might use it for propaganda", what message does that send?