We can lose this war. Not just in the ways we've already suffered losses--of our own young men and women, by bearing responsibility for the deaths of hundreds and likely thousands of innocent Iraqis, by breaking faith with virtually the entire global community. We can lose this war the old-fashioned way, by getting our asses kicked.
No, not in Iraq. We've demonstrated that our heavy armor, well-trained troops and multimillion-dollar, GPS-guided smart bombs can get us control of most of the country (or at least the main roads). The secretary of state has suggested that's enough to declare victory--regardless of Saddam's fate.
We can lose this war because we're not being told what it's really all about. Last year, a few columnists started putting two and two together: the Bush doctrine of pre-emption--which the administration, with Sept. 11 as a pretense, is using to get rid of Saddam--and the strategic importance of creating a non-Islamic government in an Arab country that's friendly to the United States.
But that connection isn't making its way into daily newspaper or television coverage of the war. It isn't making its way into public debate. And it certainly isn't making its way into the administration's discussions of the war. Instead, all we get are the by-now routine litany of lies--about al-Qaeda, about weapons of mass destruction, about a temporary presence helping the Iraqis before getting out.
But in this month's Washington Monthly magazine, a publication renowned for pointing out issues months or years before they're picked up on the mainstream radar, Joshua Micah Marshall makes the case that the Bush administration's neo-conservatives aren't scared by the prospect of Middle East turmoil. In fact, they embrace it. They envision scenarios in which Iraq and Iran become pro-Western, and Turkey and Jordan become more so. "Like a character in a bad made-for-TV thriller from the 1970s," he writes, "you can hear yourself saying, 'That plan's just crazy enough to work.'"
But the risks are enormous, he points out. And the historical precedents are non-existent. Iraq isn't Germany or Japan. The Middle East isn't the Soviet Union. We don't have international support. Rather than being embraced as we were in Eastern Europe, we may incite creation of new organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah to fight us. But worst of all, Marshall says (reflecting something we've said here a number of times): "...the White House has in mind an enterprise of a scale, cost, and scope that would be almost impossible to sell to the American public. The White House knows that. So it hasn't even tried."
Instead it has cynically, calculatedly misled us. When are we going to start talking about that?
To read Marshall's article, go to www.washingtonmonthly.com.