Perhaps you have noticed that the New Yorker has recently revamped its online presence and is offering much more substantial fare. Of particular note is a Q&A George Packer conducted recently about his stirring April 2 article about the plight of Iraqis who bought into the promise of a democratic Iraqi future. One reader asked Packer what accounts for the incompetence of the American administration of postwar Iraq.
This is an excellent question, and a huge one. It might require a book to answer. On every trip to Iraq, I have met remarkable American individuals in military and civilian ranks, but, like most people I have talked to about Iraq, I am stunned by the level of general American incompetence there. It obviously has to do with leadership. Richard Armitage, when I interviewed him, placed the blame on a complete lack of accountability at the highest levels. But I have also come to believe that Iraq represents a larger failure than just that of individuals in the Bush Administration or the Administration as a whole. Across the board, American institutions have failed. A war on this scale puts a whole country to the test, like a human body that’s been slack for a while and then is suddenly exerted to the limits of its strength. In Iraq, we’ve failed as a country.
Go read the whole thing.