A LONG TERM PLAN BASED ON SHORT TERM MEMORIES
Reading about plans like the yet another attempt to secure Baghdad
--from which peace and prosperity will radiate outward towards the countryside on electric waves of love--it occurs to me that the basic premise of these plans is that the Iraqi people are functionally stupid. Or at least lacking in any semblance of long term memory.
Iraq is, by most credible estimations, in the grips of an ethnic civil wary. Iraqis are killing each other; and I think it does them a disservice to assume that there is no motive behind these killings. This civil war started for a reason: it's a contest for power, and, now, retribution. A great many people have died. And now they're supposed to forget what's happened, what they wanted to achieve? This strikes me as wildly unlikely. Forgetting would mean Iraqis are terribly stupid. Stupid people, having lied through a civil war that ended with neither side victorious, assume that it's over. Stupid people fail to notice that Americans will have to go home, someday. Stupid people don't take precautions to protect themselves from further violence once the Americans leave; stupid people don't form militias, stockpile weapons, and take whatever preemptive steps are necessary to ensure that, when the Americans leave, they aren't the ones who end up dead. Stupid people assume that the other side of the civil war will be equally stupid.
Stupid people forget that their neighbors had just recently been trying very hard to kill them.
I don't think that Iraqis are that stupid.
In the end, and with a massive commitment of resources we previously been unwilling to commit, we can maybe postpone a civil war. We can maybe manage it, maybe contain it for an election cycle or two. But we can't stop it. We can't make Iraqis stop rationally planning for the day the war will start again, or rationally taking steps in preparation of that day. We can't wave a magic wand and make everyone forget the past three years, no matter how much Bush squints and stomps and says the magic words. A civil war is largely unavoidable if the Iraqis are smart, because smart Iraqis will take stops to hedge against it coming back, or against the wrong side winning, and these steps will necessitate that the war continue.
But then again, we have an elected leadership stupid enough to premise a plan on Iraqi stupidity, so maybe there's hope still. A rallying cry for the future: let's hope the Iraqis are as dumb as us!