The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Iraq: Holbrooke and regime change

The once super-jingo [1] Washington Post invites Newsweek's Michael Hirsh onto B1 today with a bleak prognosis for post-invasion Iraq under hed and dek Endgame/How Will We Know When We Can Finally Leave?

In order to avoid a complete collapse, leading to a sort of suped-up Lebanon (civil war, neighbouring states intervening) which would have bin Laden and his boys ullulating till they were hoarse, the US has to stay in place for years, with a beefed-up military presence.

Hirsh doesn't even give house-room to Kerry's Pollyanna-ish idea about getting serious third country military injection: it's more US cash, more US troops, more US casualties.

(Lacking the means, I'm not evaluating his analysis: but it sounds a tad more realistic than that of Bush and his béni-oui-oui Allawi.)

But, to find the piece in the Post!

I pull up a piece by Michael Massing in the Nation (October 24 2002) under hed Hawks at the Washington Post.

And read, first sentence of the lede:
On August 27, Richard Holbrooke, in an article on the Washington Post's Op-Ed page, endorsed President Bush's policy of regime change in Iraq but asserted that his case would be strengthened if he took it to the United Nations.

This reprint of the Holbrooke piece confirms the point. And makes it clear that his insistence on going to the UN Security Council is a matter of tactics only:
Other nations will probably seek to limit any resolution to the issue of weapons of mass destruction.

This is, however, less of a problem than it initially may appear. If military action against Baghdad begins, it will soon become evident that it is impossible to eliminate weapons of mass destruction without a change in regime.

Holbrooke, of course, is one of Kerry's closest advisers on foreign affairs, and widely tipped for Secretary of State in a Kerry administration.

Apparently, whatever the nuances in relation to his boss's position on the Congressional resolution (H J Res 114) authorising the use of force against Iraq, Holbrooke would have been happy to vote for it, even if he knew there was no WMD in Iraq.

The wafer-thin silver lining on the ebony-black cloud which is US-occupied Iraq is that managing its problems will effectively put the kibosh on any Kerry Krusade that Holbrooke might have been toying with. (Some humanitarian intervention on the Kosovo principle, perhaps.)

  1. The chorus of the song was We don't want to fight, but, by Jingo, if we do. My strong impression was that in 2002/3, the Post most definitely wanted to fight - and no ifs about it!


One also has the January 2003 The Pro-War Post from Todd Gitlin in The American Propect and a bevy of Washingtonian pieces: here (Did the Washington Post Create Ahmed Chalabi?), here (Post Now the Nation’s Most Hawkish Newspaper), here (crosshead A Man of Coiled Violence) and here (Post’s Prowar Editorial Writers Moving to Support John Kerry).


Meanwhile the Times today is weighing the merits of the US bugging out ASAP; and, alternatively, of a post-November 2 offensive by US forces to regain control of the likes of Falluja.

Every which way, surprise surprise, is ugly. The hopelessness to be gauged from the kicker:
Robert Cooper, a British diplomat and author, said: "If you don't even know exactly who you are fighting, winning can be very tricky. So we have to go. But how to get out is the great question. Somebody should write a book about military withdrawals because they are so much more difficult than invasions."

Awfully close to a Gallic shrug, that!


The Post's report of Powell's performances on the talk shows adds to the gloom: complete USG disarray on the question of the Iraqi elections, with Powell saying they must cover 100% of the country, while Abizaid is on screen contemplating elections covering the vast majority of the country. And Powell confirms that there will be an offensive to recapture Fallujah and other no-go areas.

Naught for our comfort, indeed.

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