What the Hell Are We Fighting For?

According to a new poll, over 60 percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S. forces and over 70 percent want them out within a year or less. Most apparently believe that the U.S. presence is provoking more conflict than it is preventing. There would seem to be no better time to implement the Westbrook Doctrine.

It’s hard to know how to interpret these findings, just as it’s hard to interpret almost anything about Iraq. The figures contrast with anecdotal evidence that when troop levels in a given area are raised and those troops concentrate on projecting their presence rather than force protection, violence plummets and local Iraqis welcome the Americans (see here and here). But then again perhaps that’s not so much of a contradiction – it’s hardly surprising that the majority of Iraqis, who haven’t enjoyed the security and stability provided in those oases of quiet, would have little use for continued American deployment. Or it may be that the majority of Shiites and Kurds now feel their militias can suppress Sunni insurgents much more effectively (and brutally) on their own, without the Americans in the way.

There’s also a kind of bizarro-world schizophrenia that seems to dominate the Iraqi mentality: even those who welcome U.S. troops because they provide protection for their community often support insurgent attacks against those same troops; Iraqis say they want a strong central government but the Americans out within a year (though substituting “Sunni-murdering” for “strong” might clear up that particular discrepancy). Much of this is a product of Iraq being essentially an artificial state sprung from the brandy-soaked imagination of a cigar-chomping colonial official, a country whose fragile 1950’s-era moves toward liberal pluralism were thoroughly stamped out by decades of psychotic totalitarian rule.

In any event, as Iraqis continue to find new and horrific ways to kill each other and the Bush administration plays turtle, the whole endeavor is looking increasingly pointless. What’s the use of losing a war in slow motion? The only legitimate mandate I can now see for international intervention in Iraq is to protect civilians from slaughter, and since neither the American government nor the American public is willing to commit the troops, resources, patience and ruthlessness necessary to provide that protection the rest is just thumb-twiddling and spiralling atrocity. Not that I have much confidence that the Decider would be able to get the job done even with that commitment. This guy could fuck up a cup of coffee.

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