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America stands alone in Iraq


If nothing else, the capture of Saddam offers a nice excuse to pause for a moment's reflection on what we have seen unfold in the last year or so. It's not pretty. We in the United States walked into a trap of our own making. And let's not fool ourselves: it's overwhelmingly likely that America will continue to face a very difficult series of problems in Iraq on its own. To paraphrase Vice President Dick Cheney, help is not on the way.

Last March, two days before the opening air strikes on Saddam's bunker -- an imaginary target, as it turned out -- I wrote:

[President George W.] Bush's father foresaw a new world order rising from the wreckage of an Iraqi battlefield. He hardly could have imagined. The New New World Order will begin next week, or the week after that, or the week after that, with the United States atop a shattered, dysfunctional Middle Eastern country, and a shattered, leaderless international order.
While Iraq certainly is a failed state today, calling the post-invasion world order "shattered" may have been a couple of shades too dramatic. Still, the system of alliances and partnerships centered on the leadership and moral authority of the United States unmistakably is not working. Pretty much everyone but us is on the sidelines. The few hardy souls who struggled against the emergence of this scenario -- Tony Blair comes to mind -- appear to have expended their ammunition. It may be awhile before the old trust and cooperation can be restored, and they may never quite return to their former levels.

Consider just the recent record. With effort, the U.S. has secured gestures from its former partners: a UN Security Council vote that has led to negligible additional international participation in the rebuilding or policing of Iraq, and an aid conference that won billions of dollars in pledges but not too much in actual money. When South Korea sends a few hundred troops, that's big news. Little else is forthcoming at this point. And with Iraq worse off today than most observers had expected a year ago -- with both a volatile and unmanageable political process and a nasty little guerilla war underway -- the inability of the U.S. to lead the world is that much more strongly felt.

In essence, America remains responsible for patching Iraq back together in some fashion, and will have to do so under fire, and on its own dime. As not a few pundits and wits have put it, "You broke it, you bought it." Even the return of the vaunted Mr. Fix-It, former Secretary of State James Baker, isn't likely to do that much good. Saddam or no Saddam, that's the outlook.

The situation has not stopped candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination, including the front-runner, Howard Dean, from renewing their calls to internationalize the occupation and reconstruction. Perhaps this is good politics: when it fails to happen, they can point back to their own advice as a path not taken. But if a Democrat prevails in November 2004, it would also be helpful to have a clear-eyed appreciation of the situation.


[Addendum, Dec. 17, 2003] UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has rejected the pleas of the Iraqi Governing Council to return UN staff to Iraq, preferring to keep Iraq-related operations at a safe distance in Nicosia, Cyprus, and Amman, Jordan.

[Addendum #2, Dec. 17, 2003] Big news! South Korea will send 3,000 troops to Iraq.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000138.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Analyst @ 07:17 AM CST [Link]


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Replies: 2 comments

You have it wrong. Saddam Hussein broke Iraq. The USA is fixing it, and the world will be better. Whoever you are, you live a nice life, thanks to U.S. industry, institutions, and the generous spirit of the American people. While not perfect, it's a very good life, indeed. Now sit down and be quiet. Please.

Posted by R Schmieder @ 12/18/2003 11:40 AM CST

R Shmeider wrote:

"Now sit down and be quiet. Please"

Spoken like a true friend of freedom and democracy.

R Shmeider wrote:

"Whoever you are, you live a nice life, thanks to U.S. industry, institutions, and the generous spirit of the American people."

No doubt true, since "Analyst" lives in the United States.

Posted by Moderator @ 12/22/2003 09:07 PM CST

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