Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 12, 2007

Gettin’ Wise

“He who is aware of his folly is wise.”

This is what my fortune cookie told me this morning. It wasn’t much of a breakfast. But it serves as a good starting point for discussing the Iraq war status reports from our ambassador and General Petreus yesterday.

I’ll start on a hopeful note (to work against my natural pessimistic tendencies.) What I’ve heard that’s encouraging so far is an overall tone of competence from the military. They sound like they now know the folly of past decisions. While the adjustments they’ve made this year are probably too little, too late, at least they’re not in denial anymore. Whether or not the politicians will make good decisions, given what we now know — that will be another matter. But I’m actually inclined to trust the military leadership charged with carrying out the policing, training, and building of practical local alliances with the people of Iraq. Mistakes will still happen, but it seems they’re learning from them finally, at least more often than in the beginning.

The bad news is that our non-military leaders, in both nations, have not gotten wise to the ineffectiveness of military or terror based solutions in the first place. The only thing violence gets us is more instability, more chaos.

I believe the mayors, merchants and mothers of Iraq understand this. They’re more interested in stability than in ethnic or theological purity. But they don’t have enough power or money to compete with the mullahs and thugs. So in most cases, they just cover their own asses and leave the fighting to those who have the stomach for it.

So I’m afraid that, while we are achieving a few symbolic victories in the short run, ultimately we’re just propping up a broken system… one that will break apart when we try to extricate ourselves from that country’s ancient rivalries and start focusing more effectively on our own problems.


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