Monday, October 23, 2006

Remain Calm! Don't Panic!

Now Iraq's leaders are urging the US and the UK not to panic.

Question: has there ever been a time when an official urged something like, "Remain calm! There's no cause for panic!" when panic wasn't fully warranted?

(See also: "I can explain this" and "This isn't what it looks like.")

Not to worry. Not only is the Bush administration not panicking, Bush is actually assuring Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki that there are no plans to oust him (that is, that we aren't going to support a military coup). That's another one of those phrases, BTW, that's perfect for making prime ministers feel all their fears were silly and groundless: "Don't worry, Nuri, we have no plans to depose you in a military coup."

Actually, some people think a military coup would be a good idea. Personally, I doubt the Iraqi military is cohesive enough to impose order. See the excellent, clear-eyed, depressing analysis here.

There also have been reports that the White House has issued Iraq ultimatums (should that be ultimata?): crack down on militias and show other security progress, or we're outa here. The White House says there have been no ultimatums; just a "collaborative effort."

I don't think it matters much whether it's all hugs and kumbaya, or whether Bush is making Malaki an offer he can't refuse (but anyone want to be which it really is?). What's going on is, the White House is trying to develop a set of criteria by which America can leave Iraq with as much blame as possible for the debacle that follows shifted onto the Iraqis.

About a year ago, I argued that the war's architects would never be the ones to end it, because doing so would deny them the fig leaf of later being able to claim "We had turned the corner (or some other metaphor) and the shiftless, spineless administration that came after us snatched defeat from the jaws of victory." I reiterated the argument about a month ago.

But now I don't think we're going to stay in Iraq in any meaningful way all the way until January '09, when a new team takes over the White House. What's changed, I think, is that Iraq has become such a catastrophe that all elements of the Republican party other than Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are intent on ending our involvement before the next presidential election. Their fear is that, if we're still bleeding in Iraq for no discernible reason in November '08, the fig leaf Bush and the war's other architects want to keep in front of themselves will mean armageddon for the Republicans, who will probably be turfed out not just from both houses of Congress, but also from the White House and possibly a majority of governors' houses, as well. To mix a couple metaphors: Sorry about having to strip away that fig leaf, pal, but we're not letting it sink the entire Republican ship.

In sum: denied the opportunity to blame the next administration for our failure in Iraq, the administration seems to have decided to set up Malaki, instead.

At least they're not panicking.


PBI said...


Good to see you posting again!

I had the same reaction when I heard about the declarations that al-Maliki was still our man. It reminded me of all the times I've heard the owners of professional sports teams express "full confidence and support" for coaches on a losing streak. As any sports fan will tell you, that's pretty much the kiss of death.

In any case, I find it utterly remarkable that discussion of actual benchmarks and success criteria has only come about in recent days. Management consultant Tom Peters has a saying: "What gets measured, gets done." It's mind-boggling to me that the sole methodology that has been used to date has been "hope for the best" and "stay the course." Better late than never I guess, but this kind of negligence strikes me as truly criminal.

Sensen No Sen

Barry Eisler said...

Thanks, Paul, it's good to be back. Two weeks of traveling, and a Nov 30 manuscript deadline... and it's killing me, because there's soooo much going on in the world to write about!

I agree, the fact that the most fundamental tools of measuring progress are only being discussed is par for the course for the Bush team. Have you noticed too that the president no longer refers to democracy there? It's all about security now. But even that goal, I'm convinced, is now unobtainable.

Anonymous said...

“Cheep, cheep, cheep.”

Isn’t that the sound little chickens make? “Cheep?”

What I am about to say is going to come off as barbaric, cruel, uncivilized, etc. etc. – certainly crazy by all accounts. But maybe we need to be a little more – heavy handed - in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Maybe a lot more heavy handed. After all, how many slugs to the face must we take before we start getting really mad?

Perhaps what needs to happen is for the U.S. to get medieval on the Middle East.

Lay waste to cities, kill as many people as possible, drop a couple of 5 to 15 kiloton warheads, show the Middle East just what a nuclear bomb can do, and maybe – just maybe – we can turn the tide on all this crap. They already hate us, blame us for all the atrocities that they must endure, and so – why not make them fear us as well? We are already labeled “Imperialistic Warmongering Infidels” so why not live up to our name? Make the devastation “biblical” – Give them the Holy War that they crave, quench their thirst for blood by making them drown in it, and show the world that we are tired of putting up with genocidal fascists with delusions of grandeur. And when we are done, turn to Iran and say “You’re next.”

But then, that’s just crazy. Isn’t it?