Wednesday, September 20, 2006


The wingnutosphere has been up in arms over Rajiv Chandrasekaran's piece from Sunday's Washington Post on the political tests used to fill various positions in post-invasion Iraq.

Ramesh Ponnuru complains:
The bloggers who have decided they believe the Post’s account—some of whom distrust the Post in general—don’t know a thing about O'Beirne, but are happy to accept the veracity of an account that gibes so well with all of their prejudices.

I may not know a thing about Jim O'Beirne, but Chandrasekaran's account gibes very well with almost everything else I've read about the American occupation of Iraq, as well as with this administration's general record of privileging ideology over competence. And I suppose I'm "prejudiced" against Bush in the same way that I'm "prejudiced" against letting one of my cousin's stoner buddies fix my transmission.

One thing that has come through in nearly all the material I've read about the U.S. occupation of Iraq is that there was a period of about a month to two months immediate after the fall of Baghdad where Iraqis were on the fence about the American presence in their country. A majority were very happy to be rid of Saddam, but they weren't thrilled about being occupied by a non-Muslim army, and they were understandably nervous about the unknown future. We had two months to impress them, to get their lights on and water running, but instead of sending capable technicians, bureaucrats and assistants with some familiarity with the region, we sent a handful of knowledgeable people (while severely underfunding their work) and filled out the rest of the positions with aspiring young Republican operatives gleaned from an advert on the Heritage Foundation website.

This isn't to cast aspersions on all of the young people who went to Iraq to serve in the CPA, many of whom did so with noble intentions. It's very possible that no amount of genuine planning and competent governance could have saved Iraq from civil war after the fall of Saddam, but the cultishness of the Bush regime prevented us from ever finding this out. I think that some, probably a lot, of cronyism is to be expected when a government undertakes a project even a fraction of this size, but I don't think it was unreasonable to think that, given the stated central importance of Iraq to the President's agenda, and given the very small pool of people with the necessary skills to repair Iraq, such extreme political tests for those willing to serve would have been out of the question. Silly me.

P.S. I just have to include Paul Mirengoff's criticism of Chandrasekaran, which is one of the more richly ironic statements of this or any era:
Chandrasekaran's piece...suffers from an apparent failure to appreciate the inherent difficulties of nation-building.


No comments: