Monday, November 20, 2006

Two Few Iraqis, II

The New Y0rk Times has 3 articles on its op-ed page from Iraqis who worked as translators for the Americans. These affecting pieces illustrate the tragedy of Iraq in human terms from intelligent men who bring historical perspective to the situation. One of them, Waddah Ali, put his finger on American hubris: "History is an idea to you; to us it is our life."

These three are some of the too few people in Iraq who identified with their nation rather than their sect or ethnic group. Their stories suggest--although they never say so explicitly--that many more Iraqis identified with the polity, and might have been convinced to work for the establishment of a unified state, had we handled the occupation with even minimal competence.

It's easy to assume that Iraqi points of view have been essentially static since the invasion. But all evidence suggests that most Iraqis have undergone significant, in many cases momentous, changes in their view of the world. Maybe, just maybe, an intelligent approach to rebuilding the nation would have had a chance of assembling a sufficient number of Iraqis to have given the new government a chance. Instead, Iraq has fractured in the way that Bosnia and Rwanda did in the 1990s. And as with those nations, the best that we might see is a peace of exhaustion.

(Later reflection: I did not mean this post to suggest that the original invasion was a good idea or, indeed, justifiable. Just that, having made the mistake of going in, we might have been able to salvage something from it, at least in theory.)

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