"Rumsfeld wanted to put an Iraqi face on everything at the outset -- not just on the occupation of Iraq, but on its liberation too. That would have made a world of difference," writes Barbara Lerner in National Review:
The latest post-hoc conventional wisdom on Iraq is that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld won the war but lost the occupation. There are two problems with this analysis . . . First, it's not Rumsfeld's occupation; it's Colin Powell's and George Tenet's. Second, although it's painfully obvious that much is wrong with this occupation, it's simple-minded to assume that more troops will fix it. More troops may be needed now, but more of the same will not do the job. Something different is needed -- and was, right from the start.
CPA Administrator Paul Bremmer's decision to dump the ineffectual Governing Council and give U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, the power to appoint a new interim government is a big mistake, warns Lerner:
Putting a U.N. stamp on an Iraqi government will delegitimize it in the eyes of most Iraqis and do great damage to those who are actively striving to create a freer, more progressive Middle East. Iraqis may distrust us, but they have good reason to despise the U.N., and they do. For 30 years, the U.N. ignored their torments and embraced their tormentor, focusing obsessively on a handful of Palestinians instead. Then, when Saddam's misrule reduced them to begging for food and medicine, they saw U.N. fat cats rip off the Oil-for-Food Program money that was supposed to save them . . .
Men like Chalabi, Talabani, and Barzani have nothing but contempt for Mr. Brahimi, the U.N., and old Europe. They know perfectly well who their real enemies are, and they understand that only decisive military action against them can create the kind of order that is a necessary precondition for freedom and democracy. They see, as our State Department Arabists do not, that we will never be loved, in Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East, until we are respected, and that the month we have wasted negotiating with the butchers of Fallujah has earned us only contempt, frightening our friends and encouraging our mortal enemies.
A Wall Street Journal editorial blogged here last week skeptically suggested that "Perhaps the President knows something about Mr. Brahimi's intentions that the rest of us don't," but so far it's hard to tell. We wish the media had less curiosity about Michael Jackson's legal defense and more about the Administration's on-the-ground plan for winning those hearts and minds even as we attend the difficult birth of a democratic Iraq.
[via Charles Johnson]