A Primary Fisk

Wes Clark on how to build the New Iraq:

Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander, said Thursday that if elected president of the United States he would convert the occupation of Iraq into a U.S.-led NATO operation, turn over Iraqi reconstruction to a civilian from an allied country and quickly establish an interim Iraqi government.


Let’s tackle the last point first. We are moving quickly to establish an interim Iraqi government. Not as quickly as some would like (and when I say “some,” I mean, “people who think we shouldn’t even be there”), but perhaps more quickly than is prudent. We’re talking about a people with zero experience in self-government.

Actually, we’re talking about three peoples. There are the Kurds, who have about ten years worth of decent government under the US-UK northern No-Fly Zone. Then we have the Sunnis, whose idea of self-government is to repress, rape, torture, or kill anyone who isn’t Sunni and/or Arab. And finally, the Shi’a “marsh Arabs” who would like to experience self-government, but fear that the Sunnis — or their theocratic religious brethren across the border in Iran — would do their self-governance for them. Again.

So, really, any talk of moving faster than we already are is just silly — the dangerous kind of silly, like we got from eight years of Bill Clinton’s non-response to Islamic terror.

Clark also wants to turn over the US occupation over to NATO. Well, not completely: “A US-led NATO operation.” Practically, what does that mean, other than flying the NATO white-star-on-blue-field flag instead of the Stars and Stripes? Frankly, I’m not sure what it would mean, other than some window dressing for the internationalist crowd, and a new venue for Franco-German obstructionism.


In one respect, having NATO involved on the ground would be nice. A division or two of NATO troops (French and German, that is, since most of the other important NATO countries are already in Iraq) would relieve the US of some of our responsibilities. Our Army is too small and stretched too thin already.

What Clark leaves unanswered is: If the French and Germans didn’t approve of us going into Iraq in the first place, what makes him think they’ll answer the call now? And if they do, then what would be their motive for doing so? A chance to make more cynical oil-for-weapons deals with what’s left of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party? To frustrate our chance at building a real democracy there? To just plain humiliate us yet again?

And if you think I’m being too cynical, remember what the French did to us — with German cheerleaders — in the UN last winter. As a side note, I’d like to apologize for putting the image of German cheerleaders into your head.

Clark’s middle point was mostly pointless. He wants Paul Bremer out, and anyone else in — provided the new guy isn’t American. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Wes! Seriously, I understand what he’s going for here: Clark thinks it will look better to have someone other than an American in charge.

What nationality would that person be? The French can’t be trusted, the Germans can’t be allowed, India can’t be bothered, the Russians or Chinese would make the French look incorruptible, and an Arab would frustrate our entire reason for reconstruction. A Brit or an Aussie would do just fine — but wouldn’t provide enough window dressing to cover a pair of granny glasses.


Secondly — look better to whom? To the Arabs? The Ba’ath Remnant needs to see the US as unflinching, not as accommodating to their sympathizers in Paris. And the Arab Street only comes out when they perceive us as weak. Make us look better to the French? The only way the French like to see us is with egg on our faces and our boots deep in the merde. The Russians? The Chinese?

Look, buddy: we’re at war. And the way you want to look during war is steely at home and fearsome abroad. Clark’s plan would nibble away at both, and he’s the second- or third-closest thing the Democrats have to a hawkish presidential candidate.

If his new plan is any indication, Wes Clark lacks the guts, instincts, and temperament to lead this nation at war.


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