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There he goes again.

David Brooks has another dismal column in the New York Times today. But it ends on a hook that gives me a chance to go out on a limb.

Brooks does a poor-man's variant on a Bill Safire device, that of re-writing someone's speech, or trying to get inside their thoughts. I kind of understand why Safire likes this device, as he's a former speechwriter. If Brooks was a former novelist it might make a bit more sense. But as it is...

So the re-write in question is of Jorge's tongue-tied to the point of stream-of-consciousness interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press. Here's Brooks' last paragraph, speaking as Bush:

"I could lose this election. I don't know whether the American people are with me or not. But I know our hair-trigger reputation has jolted dictators in Libya, North Korea and elsewhere. I know that if in 20 years Iraq is free and the Arab world is progressing toward normalcy, no one will doubt that I did the right thing."

Oh, yeah. God knows Bush's behavior has caused a jolt in behavior North Korea. So much so that history may well write, "George W. Bush -- Father of the North Korean Bomb".

But, as readers of this LJ know, I had a success rate of 63% when I made 8 predictions regarding the war in Iraq. The big score there: I predicted we would never find any WMD, because the Administration's behavior makes it clear that not even they believe the weapons existed.

So, here's that limb, complete with saw: Iraq will not be free in 20 months, let alone 20 years. 20 months would be... October 2005. Yeah, that sounds safe.

By October 2005, there will be one of four outcomes in Iraq:

* A weak but basically authoritarian regime is still in power, propped up by US troops. (The current status quo.)

* US troops are out, and there's an Islamic theocracy. (This is the "democratic" option, and why, rhetoric to the contrary, we're butt-scared about democracy breaking out in Iraq.)

* US troops are out, and there's another Hussein/Mubarak/Somoza/arap Moi/Marcos/Diem/Musharraf mostly-"friendly" dictator installed.

* US troops are out, and Iraq has broken up into three countries -- Kurdistan, "Iraq" (the Sunni enclave), and... Let's call it Basrastan (the Shi'ite enclave). Basrastan would be an Islamic theocracy (again). Kurdistan may or may not be at war with Turkey. "Iraq" would have no oil, probably be secular, and possibly authoritarian again.

I'll tell you the truth -- I'm not sure which one is the "best" scenario here. But it's where we're going, as of this writing.

Now, all things are provisional, pending better data. It's possible that somehow the Administration will start treating the situation with finesse and competence, and actually figure out a way to rebuild Iraq so that the Iraqis like and cooperate with us. To put John Kerry's spin on it, they might stop fucking up.

What I see as more likely, though, is another Vietnam... But not the way that's usually meant. I think what will happen is that regardless of the final outcome, we have so alienated the Iraqi people that some few will immigrate to the US and become incredibly prosperous, while the remainder stay at home and refuse to have anything to do with us for at least 20 years. Just like Vietnam. Or Iran. In fact, I think the US withdrawal from Iraq, if it happens before the election like so many seem to think it will, will look spookily like the withdrawal from Vietnam, people clinging to helicopters and all.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2004 10:57 am (UTC)
If you'll excuse ignorance from the other side of the planet, wasn't the lack of communication, etc., between Vietnam and the US at last partly down to the mother of all trade embargoes being imposed from the US end?
Feb. 10th, 2004 01:11 pm (UTC)
You're probably right. Now that you jog my memory, we tried to do a Cuba-style embargo on them (and we all know how well that's worked -- on Cuba, that is). I think we also withheld diplomatic recognition from Vietnam for a long time.

But even so... one wonders how much the Vietnamese would have bought from us had there not been any barriers along those lines.

Feb. 10th, 2004 04:11 pm (UTC)

My only comment is to predict against the break-up (a la the former Yugoslavia) because none of the four groups can get what they want alone.

The March Arabs want the marshes restored (economically that might be for the best for everyone). The Kurds want parts of Iraq, Iran and Turkey, which none of the players (apart from the Kurds) sees as a good idea. The likely outcome of that is Turkey taking a large chunk the present Kurdish region in Iraq and the Iranians pointing out that trying to take more will be met with a decided prejudice.

The Sunni don't want the Kurds and the Shi'a to have the oil, and the Shi'a don't want the Sunni to have the powerfully located central region (which is how they came to power in the first place).

So mutual distrust of any other outcome will prevent the three main players (the March Arabs have to base) from allowing the formation of the three countries which should've been done when the Ottoman's were shown the door at the end of that fracas.

Feb. 10th, 2004 05:02 pm (UTC)
I can plainly see a certain interlock in the interests of all, and that might be enough for them to hang together.

OTOH, I'm reminded of a quasi-quote Ulrika once mentioned to me from a Mary Stewart novel about Lebanon... something to the effect of, none of the various factions of Lebanon would dare to try to split from the others, because the result would be an interminable civil war.

That was written in the 1960s, of course. {cough}

You know my estimation of Leopold Kohr. Like Heinlein's comment about Mr. Malthus, I think ignoring Mr. Kohr is fraught with peril, however long the odds may be. (Which is why the "Breakdown of Iraq" is just one among the pallette of choices.)
Feb. 10th, 2004 08:38 pm (UTC)

I can see a civil war, but that would be IMO, a failure to make the break you discuss. More like the former Yugoslavia than the former USSR. Lebanon is a decent example of what I see as the outcome. Rather than let the other groups leave (or perhaps form some sort of federation... which might be the best alternative to the present) one, or the other, or all, of the non-departing groups, will decide it has to, "Preserve Iraq".

If we have any favorite (perish the thought) they may be better armed, and so able to force the issue, but I doubt our favorite will be the leaving party, so chaos is the likely outcome.

But we already agreed on that. :)

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )