Harlan Ullman, who frequently touts himselfas the "academic mentor of Condoleeza Rice," believes that the UnitedStates has "lost" the war in Iraq, and that the administration'shandling of Iraq has been "a catastrophe" since the U.S. "lostcontrol of events on the ground" in April or May 2003.
In an interview with Australian televisionearlier this month, Mr. Ullman joined Bob Woodward and CongressionalDemocrats in accusing the president of refusing to recognize reality."Iraq is a disaster. It is a disaster at every level, and to thinkthat they've got a functioning government and to think that thesituation is better today than it was in 2003 or 2004, or 2005, isunbelievable," Mr. Ullman said.
"We have a catastrophe on our hands," he wenton, "and the only guy in town who seems not to be able to recognizethat, sadly, is the president." The U.S. was on "a stupid course" inIraq and needed a radical change of direction, he added.
Harsh words, indeed. They come in the midstof an election season where Republicans are having to defend a war inIraq that opinion polls say has become widely unpopular.
The only problem is, Mr. Ullman and the warcritics are wrong. And this type of pseudo-critique from a man whowants us to believe that he is a treasured advisor to Republicanpolicy-makers raises questions about Mr. Ullman?s own politicalagenda. Is he hoping to convince voters to oust Republicans inNovember's midterm elections?
No, we have not "lost" Iraq. Anyone whothinks we have has never set foot in that country or the Middle East,and thinks we are engaged in some kind of failed law enforcementexercise akin to routing out the mafia in Hudson County, New Jersey(something U.S. Senator Robert Menendez D-NJ, knows quite a lotabout, or so I'm told).
Does Mr. Ullman really believe that theDemocrats "cut and run" alternative would better serve our nationalsecurity interests than continuing to train the Iraqi army and theIraqi police, than continuing to help them to bridge the sectariandivide and to track down terrorists and kill them?
Does he believe that sitting back and doingnothing in 2002, and allowing Saddam Hussein not only to remain inpower but to escape from international sanctions, would have beenbetter than the risks and the costs of war? Because that is thepolicy that the State Department Arabists and that otherprotégé he sometimes claims, former Secretary of StateColin Powell ? were pursuing at the time, with rousing support fromthe French. They called it "smart sanctions." But there was nothingsmart about it.
The U.S. effort in Iraq is nothing short ofhistoric. It is massively ambitious, and was dramatically necessary,something for which all Americans and all Middle Easterners should bethanking this president for the next five generations.
Not only has the war in Iraq rid the world ofa gathering threat, which was that of a Saddam Hussein closely alliedto international terrorists, armed with long range missiles and avariety of unconventional weapons. This war has also changed thepolitical landscape of the Middle East.
And that may be what Mr. Ullman and hisfriends the "pragmatists" and the Arabists at the State Department -fear the most.
Instead of treating the symptoms of theMiddle Eastern malady, which State and its Sunni Arab allies havedone since the end of World War II, President Bush has gone to theheart of the matter, which he rightly calls "the freedomdeficit."
The State Department Arabists and thepragmatists have long argued that Arab dictators are a necessaryevil. Islam prepares Muslims for submission, they say. It is notAmerica's mission to change the Arab world. If the Arabs wanteddictators, let them have them. (And besides, some of those dictatorspay very well, especially if you are a senior State Departmentofficial about to retire and embark on a new life as a talking head,think tanker, or international consultant).
Here's where the real problems began in Iraq.It was not with the Coalition military operation to oust SaddamHussein. Nor was it with our noble efforts to help freedom-lovingIraqis to stand up a government in the immediate aftermath ofSaddam?s demise.
It occurred on May 16, 2006, when the StateDepartment Arabists and the CIA ghost-whisperers who stood lookingover their shoulder told the seven members of the Iraqi LeadershipCouncil that they were toast.
That meeting was led by L. Paul Bremer, theU.S. "Viceroy," who had just arrived in Baghdad four daysearlier.
In his account of the hours that precededthis monumental historic error, for which he takes full credit as ifit were a tremendous success, Bremer gloats at the prospect of firingthe Iraqi freedom coalition.
Allowing Iraqis to run their own country sosoon after Saddam?s ouster was a "reckless fantasy," Bremer writes onpage 12 of his autobiography (My Year in Iraq, published earlier thisyear by Simon & Schuster). "I'll let them know that we're notabout to turn over the keys to the kingdom," he told his Arabistaide, Ryan Crocker.
In fact, the only "reckless fantasy" at workhere was that of the Arabists, the CIA, and Jerry Bremer, whobelieved the United States could become an imperial power, ratherthan fulfill our historic destiny as an exporter of freedom and(small-r) republican values.
The seven-man Iraqi Leadership Council hadbeen elected at three successsive conferences of hundreds ofdelegates representing all the major political parties in Iraq,except for Saddam Hussein's Baathists. But that wasn't good enoughfor the Arabists or the CIA or Jerry Bremer.
Why? Because the ILC was chaired by AhmadChalabi, a man who has been accused of every perfidy in the book -Iranian agent, convicted felon, intelligence fabricator, you name it.These allegations are not only a pack of lies: they were motivated bythe very people who brought us the "disaster" in Iraq of which Mr.Ullman complains: the State Department Arabists and their CIAhelpers.
Instead of empowering these Iraqis and theestablished political constituencies they represented (around 80percent of the Iraqi population), Ambassador Bremer preferreddirect, imperial-style rule.
By doing so, he transformed the U.S.liberation of Iraq into an occupation.
If we are paying a price today for "mistakes"made in Iraq, this was the first and the biggest mistake, the onemoment that irrevocably changed the way Iraqis viewed the UnitedStates.
And it was perfectly foreseeable at thetime.
When Chalabi was informed of Bremer'sdecision to cast aside the Iraqi Leadership Council on May 16, 2003,he turned to Bremer?s messenger (British ambassador John Sawers), andsaid, "OK, in a way you're doing us a favor. Now you're going to haveto take the blame for everything that goes wrong."
Prophetic words. Foreseeable future. Tragicfailure.
But please, Mr. Ullman: don't wring yourhands for a president you say is in a "state of denial."
The only ones in that state are the StateDepartment Arabists and their helpers at CIA, the Democratic party,and the Scowcroft Group.
Is Iraq difficult? You bet. We do difficult.We are the United States of America.
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