Thursday, August 24, 2006


The "Last Hope"

A foreboding view on Iraq from a strong supporter of the mission.

Unlike many opinion journalists on either side of the Iraq debate, Ralph Peters has actually visited the war zone on more than one occasion. Even he has serious concerns about the possibility of success:

Iraqis deserved their chance. They got it. They voted. Three times. Each time along confessional or ethnic lines. They elected ward bosses, not national leaders. We could have skipped the balloting and apportioned legislative seats by population shares.

Iraq doesn't have a democracy in any meaningful sense. It isn't even a nation. Iraqis didn't vote for freedom. They voted for revenge against each other.

In the immediate aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I argued that the only realistic solution was to break Iraq into three pieces. What we lacked the guts to do, elections have done. The pretense that an Iraqi national identity exists or ever will exist can be sustained no longer.

Iraq doesn't have a government. It has a collection of warlords, demagogues and thieves with official titles. It's time to put our own politics aside and face reality: If Iraq's elected leaders won't stop looting their country long enough to pull together and defeat the foreign terrorists, internal insurgents and militias killing Iraqis, we should not ask our troops to defend them.

Iraqi democracy hasn't yet failed entirely. But it looks as if it might. President Bush needs to face that possibility. Managing the regional and global consequences will be his responsibility. We will have to fight on elsewhere - with more realism and, regrettably, less idealism. The fools who hope Iraq will fail will face more wars, not fewer.

Meanwhile, the test for Iraq's elected government is straightforward: Can it excite Iraqis to a spirit of mortal sacrifice in defense of a constitutional system? The terrorists, insurgents and militiamen will die for their beliefs. If other Iraqis will not risk their lives - in decisive numbers - to seize their unique chance at freedom, there is no hope.

And Iraq is the entire Arab world's last hope.

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