Monday, July 11, 2005

Predictions in Iraq

Telling the future is always a dicey business, but I have a strong sense of what lies ahead for the US media and its relationship to Iraq, so I will brave slings and arrows and go on the record. Right now we are in a very "down" news cycle regarding Iraq, with a new surge of violence and some very lurid incidents in the headlines (compounded by the shock of the terror attacks in London). This trend should taper off in the late fall, as the new Iraqi constitution is ratified and elections are held under its auspices. By December an "up" news cycle should be in full swing, followed by a honeymoon period in which news from or about Iraq is sparse and relatively upbeat. By this time next year, however, the insurgency will remain unchecked and the honeymoon will end, precipitating a new "down" news cycle on the run-up to midterm elections.

This may seem cynical or callous, especially as these predictions portend the deaths of more Coalition soldiers and Iraqi civilians. My point, however, is that many of us who opposed the war did so because the trajectory of this policy was all too predictable from the outset and remains predictable today. Any attempt by the US to lead an effort at nation-building in Iraq was fated to be tragically costly in both blood and treasure.

A long-term positive outcome now hinges on the Iraqis summoning the political will to develop a new stable state-structure, a process that can not be induced or even much guided by the US. If and when the day comes when Iraq is wholly autonomous and at peace (a day which, I fear, will not come for many years) the debate will no doubt continue as to whether the US invasion was a wise or necessary policy. No outcome so positive or negative as to "close the case" will emerge, partisans on both sides of the issue will be able to draw upon facts and counterfactuals 'til kingdom come. In my mind (though I know this represents a "partisan" view) this fact alone engenders one conclusion- seen in the very best light the Bush administration's Iraq policy has been an ill-conceived gamble with human lives.

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