Ajami on Iraq


It took some time in coming, but Fouad Ajami has finally turned the corner on Iraq, writing, in a very pessimistic New York Times op-ed piece commenting on George W. Bush?s speech Monday:

Let?s face it: Iraq is not going to be America?s showcase in the Arab-Muslim world. The president?s insistence that he had sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, "not to make them American" is now ? painfully ? beside the point. The unspoken message of the speech was that no great American project is being hatched in Iraq. If some of the war?s planners had thought that Iraq would be an ideal base for American primacy in the Persian Gulf, a beacon from which to spread democracy and reason throughout the Arab world, that notion has clearly been set aside.

The difficulty of the piece is that Ajami takes an oddly deterministic view of the inability to change the Arab world, without ever addressing how the U.S. can use its substantial power in Iraq to salvage its campaign ? if only fewer mistakes were committed. As such, he is only partly correct in blaming America?s problems on ?difficult lands? like Iraq; somewhere in there he must admit (and did so in an earlier piece in the Wall Street Journal) that the problem must also be sought in American attitudes, and a growing desire to break free from a war that the administration ambiguously defined from the outset.