Wednesday, August 20, 2003

In the wake of the latest bombings, Tom Friedman acknowledges again that the invasion he touted is not exactly going well:

The Pentagon, with its insistence on doing nation-building in Iraq on the cheap, has been too slow in forming a provisional Iraqi government, too slow in getting the electricity on, too slow in turning security over to Iraqis. As a result, while most Iraqis are happy to be rid of Saddam, too many feel that their lives are tangibly worse in every other respect -- jobs, electricity, roadblocks -- because of the U.S. presence. "Saddam was paranoid, but he kept the streets open -- you're closing all the arteries," Muhammad Kadhim, a Baghdad professor, said to me.

Which sounds as if he's finally starting to confront reality. But only to a point:

Everyone has advice now for the U.S.: bring in U.N. peacekeepers, bring in the French. They're all wrong. There are only two things we need: more Americans out back and more Iraqis out front. President Bush needs to give the U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer III, more resources to get basic services here running and Iraqis in charge as fast as we can. This is not Germany 1945. America is much more radioactive in this region. We don't have infinite time.

Yes, and we don't have infinite cash either, or infinite infantry. Iraq is already costing the U.S. treasury $4 billion a month, according to Rumbo himself, and that doesn't seem likely to drop anytime soon. As for personnel, the military is already way overstressed, and many units have already been in theater much longer than is wise for lack of replacements. What other "resources" is Dubya supposed to commit, and where is he supposed to dredge them up?

This is why we pretty much have to bring in U.N. peacekeepers -- hopefully including the French -- if indeed there are any still willing to come. They have more to contribute; we're maxed out. And yes, after the high handed treatment Dubya's crew gave that body last winter, they can expect the price to include a substantial helping of crow, which Powell and friends should swallow with all the cheer they can muster. If they think that's too much humiliation, they can compare it to the humiliation of a loss of control in Iraq, which seems likely to happen if we don't get help soon.


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