Monday, July 7, 2008

No End in Sight

The story is depressingly familiar by now. The Bush administration, having made up its mind to go to war in Iraq, also deludes itself into thinking that the war can be done on the cheap. It then goes on to make one calamitous decision after another, all the while sneering at those who had the temerity to question its "wisdom."

No End in Sight documents the chain of mistakes that contributed to the explosion in violence in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. It should be required viewing of every nationally elected official.

The most profoundly maddening element of the story is how the administration marginalized experts who didn't buy into its hubris. Shelves of State Department reports on the challenges that a post-Saddam Iraq would went unread, and the State Department itself was excluded from the reconstruction effort. The advice of military professionals, such as Gen. Shinseki, with experience with difficult peace-keeping operations in the Balkins was dismissed. A National Intelligence Estimate that pointed to a deepening and broadening insurgency was derided as "just guessing" and "pessimistic predictions." First-hand observations from troops and officials were ignored. All of this came at the cost of thousands of American and Iraqi lives.

Over the last year, the situation in Iraq has become less hellish, with civilian casualities back at the levels they were at in 2005 (roughly the level they were at when Vice President Cheney famously observed that the insurgency was "in the last throes"). However, the Iraqi government continues to put off important steps toward reconciliation, and our troops continue to see no end in sight.