Edward Luce and Demetri Sevastopulo have a thoughtful piece in the Financial Times anticipating the impact of the Iraq War narrative on the American psyche, particularly as of Sunday when the “Iraq War will enter its 1,347th day, thus overtaking the US’s involvement in the second world war.”
Some key excerpts. The first on Bush’s unflagging self-delusion about the Iraq War:
President Bush has made it plain that he still seeks victory in spite of almost universal scepticism that such an outcome can be achieved. To many, the US president’s stubborn faith in a war that has so far belied almost all of its reasons raises fears about how much longer it will last — and whether worse will follow. “To almost everybody except Mr Bush, Iraq is a tragedy,” said Kurt Campbell, former national security advisor to Bill Clinton and now vice-president of the Centre for Strategic International Studies. “We are probably only in act two or three of this tragedy — there may be many more to come.”
On the Bush administration’s success at buffering the American public from the true costs and impact of this war and a seering comment from former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson:
Much of the human cost of the war has been kept out of sight, including the return of the dead given the Bush administration’s ban on the televising of bodybags.
But the extended tours of duty imposed on volunteer part-timers in the National Guard and Reserves as well as regular units has ruptured military morale, according to Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, Mr Bush’s first secretary of state.
As a result the Pentagon has been forced to dilute recruitment standards — waiving academic requirements and lifting the age limit from 35 to 40. “This is a war that is being fought by poor people while the rest of the country drives round in its SUVs barely noticing it is happening,” said Mr Wilkerson, who served in Vietnam.
And on the as yet unrealized costs of this war and the possibility of revived American isolationism:
“If you think of the Iraq war as a pool then it is still on the [US] surface,” said [Kurt] Campbell. “But beneath it there are many concealed rocks.” One such hidden cost could be a diminished appetite for international engagement — an “Iraq syndrome” to match the US’s reduced self-confidence following Vietnam is more likely this time, says Steve Clemons at the New America Foundation in Washington.
“It is too early to be sure what effect Iraq could have on the America public,” he said. “It could be anger, it could be isolationism or some longer-term malaise. There is still a lot that we cannot anticipate.”
Because of the Bush administration’s choices and style of management of America’s national interests, the nation is facing NO good options. So much will need to be rebuilt and recrafted by the next President, and the international system will be highly suspect of this nation — no matter who is elected.
— Steve Clemons