Wealthy Frenchman

Friday, August 18, 2006

Where Is Euphrates Etiquette?



You know W. is burned up at the Iraqis.

You know Rummy got disgusted with nation-building ages ago. (In Baghdad in April, Rummy doodled at a news conference while Condi went on about her hopes for Iraq’s future.)

You can tell that Condi has grown fed up with the intractable mess in Iraq because she’s so focused on the intractable mess in Lebanon.

And certainly Dick Cheney has given up on those obstreperous Iraqis to move on to the more gratifying task of plotting how to liberate Iran and Syria.

W., unschooled in Middle East quicksand politics, learned the hard way that too many Iraqis prefer jihad to Jefferson. The Iraqi forces can’t stand up so we can scamper out. The Shiites we gave the country to prefer Iran and Hezbollah to the U.S. and Israel. And our rebellious yet incompetent Iraqi puppets have had the temerity to criticize both the U.S. and Israel for brutal behavior in the region.

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child, as the Bard said, and the Bush administration has always condescendingly treated Iraq as though it were an ungrateful child. Rummy, Paul Wolfowitz and Republican lawmakers liked to compare the occupied nation to a tyke on a bike. “If you never take the training wheels off a kid’s bicycle,’’ Wolfie would say, “he’ll never learn to ride without them.’’

Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti of The Times reported that the president seemed dissatisfied this week in a private meeting at the Pentagon with his war cabinet and outside Middle East experts.

“I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally — that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget,’’ one person who attended the meeting told The Times. “The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success.” Another said that W. was confounded that 10,000 Iraqi Shiites would take to the streets to rally behind Hezbollah.

W. is sick of holding on to the bike as his legacy crashes. He wants to see some gratitude from his charges — pronto.

The Iraqis have no doubt offended W.’s keen sense of loyalty. He went back to sack Saddam to make up for his father’s lack of loyalty to the Shiites who were slaughtered after Poppy encouraged them to rise up, and now the Shiites show little loyalty to W.

Carole O’Leary, an American University professor who is working in Iraq on a State Department grant, told The Times that Mr. Bush offered the view that “the Shia-led government needs to clearly and publicly express the same appreciation for United States efforts and sacrifices as they do in private.”

Naturally, Tony Snow denied that President Resolute was frustrated. But if W. can behold how his plans have backfired and not be frustrated, then he’s out of touch with reality. And the reason W. is meeting with outside experts is to demonstrate that he is, too, in touch with reality. Even though he doesn’t use that expertise to reshape his plan in Iraq, which shows again that he’s out of touch with reality.

Reviewing Paul Bremer’s book in The New York Review of Books, Peter Galbraith wrote: “In Bremer’s account, the president was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the [Coalition Provisional Authority] would publicly thank the United States. ... Bush had only one demand: ‘It’s important to have someone who’s willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq.’ ’’

You can take the boy out of Kennebunkport, but you can’t take Kennebunkport out of the boy. The erstwhile black sheep is now as obsessed with manners as his dad. He’s furious that he got no thank-you note from the Iraqis for the big present of allowing them the opportunity to be like us. They refused our gift, after everything W. did for them — invading their country under the false pretense of protecting our country, shattering their shaky infrastructure, and starting a shame spiral that’s led to civil war.

His foreign policy has been more force majeure than the noblesse oblige of his father and grandfather. But now he has embraced noblesse, and puzzles over why the poor Iraqis do not feel more obliged after being blessed with America’s philosophical, economic and political riches. How on earth do these benighted folk not understand the difference between the good guys and the bad guys?


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