It is absolutely amazing that whenever there is a major US domestic political event that requires the vapors of 'progress' to be present in Iraq in order to buy the President another FU or two, progress occurs. And it is even more amazing that as soon as the political inflection point passes, the progress dissipates.Of note: the "carefully constructed compromise on a draft law governing Iraq’s rich oil fields . . . appears to have collapsed" and "the leader of local Sunni tribes in Iraq who have joined American and Iraqi forces . . . was killed by a bomb today." In the latter article, the Times observes:
-fester at The Newshoggers
The progress in Anbar has been one of the rare bright spots for the American military. Just last year some senior military officers had all but given up on bringing security to Anbar. But since then, the Sunni sheiks banded together to fight militants loyal to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and supply young men to the police, an effort that brought a significant turnabout and has allowed the American military to claim some success.As you consider that, consider this passage from George Orwell's essay, "Shooting an Elephant." Orwell, then a young British imperial official--a police officer--in Burma, has been called upon to shoot an elephant that escaped while untended. Orwell goes and observes the elephant. He's never done anything like killing the beast before, and he doesn't want to do it now. After watching the elephant for some time, he comes to the conclusion that it is calm and that it would probably be harmless simply to wait for its handler to return. But when he turns to a native crowd now numbering in the thousands, who hate him but who also expect him to do what he came to do, he realizes that he has to kill it.
And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd--seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing--no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.The United States is now that "absurd puppet pushed to and fro." Our great power--or at least our perception of our great power--blinds us to the the elementary truth that we are also servants of circumstance, and not its masters.
The failure to appreciate Orwell's insight is of course endemic. It applies equally to Democrats like Barack Obama who seek to bolster credibility by making "realistic" proposals to quell "humanitarian catastrophes" that might arise if we "leave Iraq precipitously" as it does to General Petraeus and President Bush. "A sahib has got to act like a sahib." All the grave talk about "responsibility" is no more or less than "one long struggle not to be laughed at."
The jingoes of the internet and the op-ed pages still speak of victory, but those in power understand that the end result we seek is dominion (to borrow a word from Arthur Silber's useful lexicon). It cannot be had. It will not be had. Still, we won't leave. "To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing--no, that was impossible."
Understand that it isn't redeployment that we need, but renunciation.