Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Blind Men

James Fallows is a writer at The Atlantic . The Atlantic (previously know as The Atlantic Monthly) is one of those magazines that I just never found time to pick up and read in my younger life. That was a mistake on my part. Perhaps this Wikipedia entry will explain it better. Not reading a magazine whose writers have included names like Emerson, Longfellow and Twain isn’t something to brag about. Mr. Fallows has the cover story this month -- but I’m getting off course.

I recently finished one of Mr. Fallows’ books: Blind Into Baghdad. I’m not really sure where to start. There’s an awful lot of thinking in such a little bit of space. I don’t normally make marks on my books. No hi-liters, no underlined passages, no pages bent over to mark a spot. I had to break down and make some marks on this one. Okay, so they were in pencil. I still don’t like marring a book.

”It’s like any other profession... You can have the best computers in the world, and you can have an ocean of information, but if you have a guy who’s only been there for three weeks or three months, you’re very weak.”

It sounds like Mr. Fallows could be quoting a controller doesn’t it ? Unfortunately (for us), he’s quoting a CIA officer.

Another point in the book that got my attention: If we invade Afghanistan, kick out al-Qaeda and the Taliban, then fail to follow through and stabilize the country -- what do we wind up with ? We wind up with a country just like the one we had before. One that is a breeding ground for terrorists.

Yet that is what we’ve done -- only it’s worse. We took all the resources we needed to fix Afghanistan and diverted them to Iraq -- only to make another Afghanistan out of Iraq.

“In Vietnam we just lost,” the officer said. “This would be losing with consequences.”

This book will make you put your thinking cap on. It’s a compilation of several articles Mr. Fallows wrote between 2002 and 2005. The first article; “The Fifty-First State” was written in mid-2002 and published in November. To refresh your memory, combat in Iraq didn’t begin until March 2003.

“A further assumption was that even alone, U. S. forces would win this war...”

“What then ?”

If a reporter can ask that question (and try to answer it) well before combat even begins, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Why didn’t my government ?” And if they did ask, why didn’t they get any better answers ? Answers like this one:

”The transforming vision [democratizing Iraq] is not, to put it mildly, the consensus among those with long experience in the Middle East.”

““...it is laughable.”, Chris Sanders told me.”

“”...the ruminations of insane people.” one British official said.”

I’d highly recommend the book. It isn’t an “easy read” but if we can learn some lessons -- maybe next time -- it won’t be so easy for the blind men to lead us into the wrong war.

Don Brown
June 19, 2007

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