Monday, July 09, 2007
A long leader in The New York Times yesterday advocated a withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible. The paper's previous position was that, though the war was plainly a disaster, US troops should stay 'to mitigate the chaos' that would follow a quick withdrawal. The new position is much more fatalistic - chaos may, indeed, ensue, but staying is no longer an option. The NYT goes round the usual block of international and regional cooperation to deal with refugees, civil war and so on. It also advocates keeping strike forces in the region to attack terrorist bases, more of which will, of course, spring up in Iraq after the pullout. At the same time, the paper doubts the Bush's administration ability or will to achieve any of this; apart from anything else, too many diplomatic boats have been burned and, it might be added, the depth of the Sunni-Shia rift is now such that a regional war is far more likely than cooperation. What is most interesting is the barely concealed hint of liberal isolationism at work here. The leftish NYT is throwing up its hands in despair and, as it does so, indulging in some mild blaming of the Iraqis, a tactic neocons have lately deployed to excuse their own failings and which carries the nasty implication that foreigners are just not good enough for the American Way. Iraq has been a catastrophe, the full effects of which we have yet to feel. These effects will be made infinitely worse if the result is a new US isolationism. But the NYT is right - somehow the Americans have to get out if their power and authority are not to be weakened yet further by this engagement. The problem is there is currently no conceivable aftermath that is not utterly horrific.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 12:43 pm