Richard Perle asked me rhetorically, “What would be accomplished by having patrols up and down the highway? The point of our presence there, it seems to me, is not to make sure that the highways are open all the time. That isn’t how this is going to be won, in my view. This is going to be won when we have a flow of intelligence that identifies the guys we’re fighting.”
Unless you had an ideological stake in it, this controversy didn’t survive your first contact with Iraqi reality. There weren’t enough troops to patrol the road between Baghdad International Airport and the city center so that visitors didn’t have to take their lives into their hands upon arrival. There weren’t enough troops in the city streets to act as a deterrent to someone who wanted to steal a car or shoot up a convoy or assassinate an official. There weren’t enough troops to guard a fraction of the million tons of munitions which were left lying around in dumps all over Iraq that were being steadily looted by insurgents. There weren’t enough troops to provide a token presence along Iraq’s borders with Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, which might dissuade some jihadis and intelligence agents from infiltrating across. There weren’t enough troops to prevent militias from gaining control of entire provinces. There weren’t enough troops on the major highways to keep bandits and insurgents from terrorizing the truckers carrying essential goods, such as reconstruction materials, or even food for the Green Zone. There weren’t enough troops to allow CPA officials to do their jobs.
Perhaps the connection between patrolling highways and winning the war was too abstract for those supporters of administration policy who never went to Iraq, and for a few who did. It shouldn’t have been that hard. Why would Iraqis join the American effort when their personal safety, or even a minimum of public order in their country, couldn’t possibly be upheld by the occupying forces?
Now, three years later, the situation is much, much worse. And while all sane people are deeply frustrated by the situation, until this week we hadn’t gotten any indication that our Derelict in Chief felt any of that frustration. Now, however, we know: he’s just as frustrated as we are . . . but he’s frustrated about something else:
President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government — and the Iraqi people — had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday. . . . More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.
Those ungrateful Iraqis. But maybe he’s got a point. Maybe the Iraqis should thank us—for not somehow screwing up this war and occupation even more. Hell, I’m almost to the point of being grateful for every day that Bush doesn’t decide to nuke someone.
Oh, but I should give the Derelict in Chief his due. From later in the New York Times story:
Participants said Mr. Bush appeared serious and engaged during the lunch, which lasted more than 90 minutes.
He was serious and engaged! He did his job for 90 whole minutes! And don’t forget: it’s August, when by right he should be on vacation! That brush isn't going to clear itself, you know.
Now don’t you feel more grateful?