The _Daily Mail_ has decided that we’re finished in Iraq. There is a long dispatch from Max Hastings in Baghdad; and I don’t think any British journalist has better contacts at the top of the Army than Max Hastings. It is remorsefully pessimistic — remorseful because the cost of defeat in Iraq will be high for all of us and because there’s no doubt he wants the Brtish Army to win every war it must fight. But it has one throwaway statistic which gives us the proportions of the current fighting.
bq. August was a bloody month, in which U.S. losses were heavy. The British fired 100,000 rounds, probably more than they expended during 30 years of conflict in Ulster.
A couple more paragraphs give the flavour of his argument.
bq.. Unlike Vietnam, there is no prospedt that Iraq’s insurgetns will inflict military defeat on the Americans and the British. But it seems overwhelmingly likely that they can frustrate the purtpose of ur presence.
It is a fantastically difficult, probably imposssible task to fit this country to stand on its own feet, to create institutions and forces which can sustain a local government, before popular pressure becomes ireesistable for the ‘liberators’ to leave.
The momentum of nation-building is constantly arrested by new violence — which is the insurgents’ purpose.
If the allies could hold the ring for five years, they might be able to lay foundaitons that would hold. As it is, many allied officers are privately convinced that the Coalition troops will be forced out within 18 months.
p. The point is that when Hastings says “Many allied officers”, his attribution will be accurate. He will have had the honest assessment of senior army officers. They trust him. They think we have already lost the war.
One conclusion follows, fairly obviously. If the USA is going to have to retreat from Iraq within the last 18 months, leaving a gigantic clusterfuck behind, it might be a good thing for Bush to win. The reaction won’t be pretty whoever is president. But if the republicans can blame America’s defeat on Kerry, it will be actively poisonous. I agree this is surreal. In any normal, functioning democracy, the greed and incompetence of the Bushies would have pushed them out of power with no questions asked. Since this hasn’t happened, we can only suppose that the American electorate still thinks of Bush as an honest and competent man.