Alongside the easy and fast victory over Saddam Hussein, the Bush Administration made a critical conceptual mistake—raising short-term expectations too high. Nomenclature alone required Operation Iraqi Freedom to quickly produce a vibrant, healthy, open, calm Iraq, with anything less constituting failure. Talk of a "free and prosperous" Iraq serving as a regional model foisted ambitions on Iraqis that they—just emerging from a thirty-year totalitarian nightmare, saddled with extremist ideologies, deep ethnic divisions and predatory neighbors—could not fulfill.
As Iraqis failed to play their appointed role, frustration grew in Washington. Deepening the trap of its own making, the administration forwarded these ambitions by bogging itself down in such domestic Iraqi minutiae as resolving inter-tribal conflict, getting electricity and water grids to work and involving itself in constitution writing.
Had the U.S.-led coalition pitched its ambitions lower, aspiring only to a decent government and economy while working much more slowly toward democracy, Iraq's progress over the past four years would be more apparent. The occupying forces should have sponsored a democratically-minded strongman to secure the country and eventually move it toward an open political process; and this approach would have the benefit of keeping Islamists out of power at a moment of their maximal popular and electoral appeal.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
From his article in The National Interest: