More than four years ago, The Guardian asked a number of "experts" on Iraq to comment on how to improve the situation. The suggestions were pretty mediocre. The most laughable? From Danielle Pletka:
For Danielle Pletka, of the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute, improved security was a matter of being tougher. The US should "stop acting as a weak power, because that is what is giving encouragement to the terrorists", she urged.Her suggestion for how to get us onto a path of success? One of those "It would be funny, but..." things.
"We could stop driving around in Humvees without actually arresting anybody," she said. "We could arrest a lot of people, including all of the Ba'athists, the mukhabarat [secret police] and senior military who are floating around freely in Iraq. We could stop releasing people after we arrest them, often within 24 hours."
Closing Iraq's borders effectively, to prevent infiltration from neighbouring countries, she added, was half the battle. "We could make clear to the governments that are allowing infiltrators through that the consequences to them will be extraordinarily unpleasant if it continues."
What would kickstart moves to peace?The New York Times continues to anoint her as an expert:
'Establish an understanding that there are liberal, democratic Iraqis who should be empowered with more control over the political and security wellbeing of the country'
• Chance of stability in 12 months: 50-75% as long as changes are made in tactics
But what about the mistaken assumptions that remain unexamined? Looking back, I felt secure in the knowledge that all who yearn for freedom, once free, would use it well. I was wrong. There is no freedom gene, no inner guide that understands the virtues of civil society, of secret ballots, of political parties. And it turns out that living under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny for decades conditioned Iraqis to accept unearned leadership, to embrace sect and tribe over ideas, and to tolerate unbridled corruption.So when we invaded, her position was, "Wave a magic wand, get freedom." Now she knows better, because with her newfound grasp of Iraqi history she has come to realize that Saddam Hussein created tribalism and sectarianism in the Middle East, and apparently that he succeeded a government that was honest, diligent, free of corruption, and democratically elected. Having been 100% wrong on the invasion, and taking the ignorant and wildly incorrect position that the U.S. wasn't arresting or detaining suspected insurgents and terrorists in 2003, Pletka continues to display near-total ignorance of the region and its history.
Some have used Iraq’s political immaturity as further proof the war was wrong, as if somehow those less politically evolved don’t merit freedoms they are ill equipped to make use of. We would be better served to understand how the free world can foster appreciation of the building blocks of civil society in order to help other victims of tyranny when it is their turn.The "some have used" game. Yes, particularly war supporters who try to explain away their failures with Coulteresque racism directed at Arabs and Muslims.
But those voices who can tell us how nation building works, and the difficulties of occupation? Had Ms. Pletka been listening, she would have heard those voices before the invasion. Instead she plugged her ears and dreamed up a "democracy gene". And when things went wrong, advanced the line that we had a pretty good chance of success if only we would get tougher and arrest more people, and turn power over to "liberal, democratic Iraqis"... which, yes, in her mind meant Ahmed Chalabi.
Some expert. And yet, on it goes.