Mr. Murdock tries to show that the "surge" is working in Iraq (this article was released prior to General Petraeus' report to congress). He shows that it's working by highlighting some tangible metrics as reported by the Army Corps of Engineers, such as:
- America has paved 38 new roads. Once 41 total projects are done, Iraqis will ride 265 miles of fresh thoroughfares
- ACE announced Wednesday that it completed a $266 million facility to bring drinking water to 500,000 Iraqis
- America stayed busy building or rehabilitating 77 primary healthcare centers and 16 hospitals, through August 20
- U.S. troops through August 29 had renovated or built 810 schools, supplying classrooms for 324,000 students
- American forces have helped female Iraqis thrive in engineering, business, and law enforcement
While no one will doubt the nobility of such acts, one can't help but wonder where the Iraqis are in all of this. Not just on the side of enjoying the fruits of our labors (and money and soldiers' lives). I would be much more encouraged if there were any points showing the progress Iraqis have made in doing any of these things themselves.
In this review that appears in the current Claremont Review of Books, in the part regarding Mugged by Reality by John Agresto, the reviewer notes the author's desire "to make sense of the colossal 'failure of good intentions' that he witnessed there."
More from the article that addresses my concern of the Iraqis not doing the doable themselves:
When you add the illiberal propensities of Islam to the cultural effects of a status-based society, socialism, and tyranny, the Iraqis do not exactly look like Jacksonian democrats. Agresto provides a careful, thoughtful analysis of the cultural damage done. Iraq's traditional society of clans and tribes, consumed by a "constant concern with rank, place, and honor," breeds a "culture of entitlement" in which work is despised and accountability shunned. Saddam's government added a "culture of dependency" by addicting everyone to food handouts, subsidized housing, free education, free health care, free electricity, and virtually free gasoline (three cents a liter; like Iran, Iraq exports oil and imports gasoline, making the subsidy doubly ridiculous). And his tyranny engendered a "culture of fear and hesitation" across the board.
The cumulative effect of these factors is an Iraqi character that is not fit for self-government, at least not yet and probably not for a very long time, according to Agresto. "Hard as it is to say," he declares, "still it must be said, that it did not seem that the majority of Iraqis had, or had yet, the souls of free people." He dismisses as "happy talk" President Bush's various assurances to the contrary. All human beings desire to be free? Most Iraqis would choose security over freedom, "and many others would choose being Islamic and submissive to Allah's word over being free any day." All men desire to live as democrats? Most Iraqis "would rather be governed by religious leaders of their own sect than by their neighbors."
Another excellent article in the magazine, "American Statecraft and the Iraqi War," Angelo M. Codevilla notes:
Common sense says that weapons in some hands serve our purposes, while weapons in other hands work against us. But U.S. soldiers were ordered to disarm Iraqis on all sides. Our troops were not to be on anybody's side, but rather to foster reconciliation, supposing that the population was eager for it, and to target the few irreconcilables, supposedly spread evenly among all groups. Over and above the unreality of these apolitical suppositions ..., the inescapable consequences of U.S. leader's failure to identify our enemies was that it forced American soldiers to treat every Iraqi as one. Because American soldiers occupying Iraq were not sent to kill anyone in particular (ed. note: the real job of the military), many paid with their lives for not being trigger-happy enough, while in turn many Iraqis died when soldiers, for whom self-preservation became the default mission, proved too trigger happy.
On April 25, 2007, as U.S. casualties in Iraq neared 30,000 and the U.S. government was rushing more troops to patrol Baghdad's streets, Major General Robert H. Scales, Jr., former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, recited to the Senate Armed Services Committee what had become the military's mantra: we need culturally aware soldiers who can solve complex social problems. "A corporal standing guard in Baghdad or Fallujah can commit an act that might well affect the strategic outcome of an entire campaign... . Killing power is of no use unless a soldier on patrol knows who to kill." Nodding senators agreed with the general that the job of telling friend from foe belongs to the soldiers in harm's way, not to those sitting in safety regulating, equipping, and ordering them! This abdication, this downward buck-passing and all its consequences, is the logical outcome of President Bush's sending troops around the world without telling them clearly whom they should kill.
Itemizing the instances of the occupation's military malpractice is beyond my scope here. Note simply that most U.S. casualties result from roadside bombs--mines. Military manuals are clear about minefields: if they cannot be avoided, they must be cleared and crossed once. The notion of driving around in replenished minefields, day after day, year after year, is contrary to military common sense. So is the notion of "nation-building." Armies don't build nations.*
If only someone would tell that to President Bush and Deroy Murdock.
*In the last block quote, italics are in the original, bold was added by me.