Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ross to Iraqis: "You're grounded!"

Writing in The New Republic, think tanker Dennis Ross proposes yet another opportunity for the U.S. to meddle in the internal politics of Iraq (with thanks to Matthew Yglesias for the link):
...we [!] should set a date for the convening of a national reconciliation conference. Unlike previous such conferences, it should not be permitted to disband until agreement has been reached.

While some of Ross' proposals seem reasonable enough, the irony here seems boundless: after the U.S. overruns their country and precipitates a sectarian civil war, Iraqis have to endure Washington's continuing micromanagement of their politics—possibly including a "national reconciliation conference" that would apparently be held at gunpoint.

A few days ago Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki criticized certain "American officials" who "consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages." He went on to say: “Iraq is a sovereign country, and we will not allow anyone to talk about it as if it belongs to this country or that.”

Though he was referring to Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin, Maliki's larger point is correct. The same "officials" in the White House who incited chaos in Iraq, and their cheerleaders in the MSM, now have the audacity to make endless demands on Iraqis. Apparently they have the moral right to do this because:

  1. The U.S. is so deeply "invested" in Iraq, to the tune of 3,732 lives and $456 billion to date;
  2. U.S. politicians and think tankers like Ross know more about the workings of democracy than anyone else, so we can sanctimoniously prescribe what others must do to move toward our level of perfection.

But the Iraqis never asked the U.S. to invade and occupy their country. So we don't like what's happening in their country? Let's ground them. Maybe that will "alter their behavior" (as Ross puts it). Send them to a room somewhere to "reconcile." No iPods or Blackberries.

The bipartisan tendency to view Iraqis, Iranians, Venezuelans, the French, the Russians and many others as so many misbehaving children is a major reason why the U.S. is so despised today around the world. There's nothing new about this presumption, but it has become more entrenched than ever under the despicable regime that occupies the White House.

Ross finally admits that there may be limitations on the ability of the U.S. to influence events in Iraq:
Maybe it is too late for such an effort to work. For the Iraqis, perhaps [!] there has been too much brutality, too much displacement, too much disbelief in the intentions of the "other," and too little willingness to accept a political solution with its attendant compromises.
If all else fails, Ross suggests that
our "baseline objective should be to make sure that Iraq's problems are contained within Iraq. " Is that the latest, radically-downsized definition of "success" in Iraq?

That may be fine for the realpolitikers on the Potomac. Not fine for the Iraqis.

[A version of this post appears as a comment on Matthew Yglesias' blog]

PHOTO: Nouri Al-Maliki standing in front of what doesn't appear to be an Iraqi flag (Wikipedia Commons).

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