There’s plenty to think about

in this critique of our efforts in Iraq by the gifted Mark Helprin. Helprin argues that “from the beginning, the scale of the war was based on the fundamental strategic misconception that the primary objective was Iraq rather than the imagination of the Arab World, which, if sufficiently stunned, would tip itself back into the heretofore easily induced fatalism that makes it hesitate to war against the West. After the true shock and awe of a campaign of massive surplus, as in the Gulf War, no regime would have risked its survival by failing to go after the terrorists within its purview. But a campaign of bare sufficiency, that had trouble punching through even ragtag irregulars, taught the Arabs that we could be effectively opposed.” I’m not sure that our initial military undertaking in Iraq failed sufficiently to impress the Arab imagination, but I fear that Helprin is correct with respect to our current effort.
Helprin also gets off a great line at the expense of the Democrats: “Their allergy to military expenditure assures that, unlike Republicans, who provided just enough to accomplish an arrogant plan if nothing went wrong, they would not provide enough to accomplish a humble plan if everything went right.” By now on a roll, Helprin adds that “just as many Republicans detest the idea of international governance but glow at the prospect of empire, many Democrats are reliably anti-imperialist yet dewy-eyed about world government. Thus, Sen. Kerry’s only non-secret policy for the war is a bunch of mumblings about the U.N. and our ‘allies,’ presumably the ones who are not with us at the moment in Iraq. It is they and the U.N. who in the fairy dust of multilateralism will solve this most difficult problem. But in fact they neither can nor will do any such thing. Either Sen. Kerry knows that his strategy is just a cover for simple, complete, and ignominious withdrawal, or he does not know, which is worse.”
Helprin’s prescription for dealing with Iraq today is less convincing, but worthy of consideration: “The Kurds and Shia of Iraq could within days assert control in their areas. We already have ceded part of Sunni Iraq: What remains is to pick a strongman, see him along, arrange a federation, hope for the best, remount the army, and retire, with or without Saudi permission, to the Saudi bases roughly equidistant to Damascus, Baghdad, and Riyadh. There, protected by the desert, with modern infrastructure, and our backs to the sea, which is our metier, we would command the center of gravity of the Middle East, and with the ability to strike hard, fast and at will, could enforce responsible behavior upon regimes that have been the citadel of our enemies.”

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