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The War Of The Imagination
By Mark Danner Ezra Klein November 26, 2006
Tags: Iraq | War | middle east Print

November 27, 2006

The War Of The Imagination

I fear there's really no intelligent way to comment on Mark Danner's eulogy for "The War of the Imagination," as I'd want to talk about virtually every paragraph of the piece, but suffice to say it's the single best thing I've read on the Shakespearian tragedy that is the Iraq War. It has the most heartbreaking and perfect lede I've ever read, and things only get better from there. A taste:

Anyone seeking to understand what has become the central conundrum of the Iraq war—how it is that so many highly accomplished, experienced, and intelligent officials came together to make such monumental, consequential, and, above all, obvious mistakes, mistakes that much of the government knew very well at the time were mistakes—must see beyond what seems to be a simple rhetoric of self-justification and follow it where it leads: toward the War of Imagination that senior officials decided to fight in the spring and summer of 2002 and to whose image they clung long after reality had taken a sharply separate turn. In that War of Imagination victory was to be decisive, overwhelming, evincing a terrible power—enough to wipe out the disgrace of September 11 and remake the threatening world.[...]
[But] as the war drags on and alternatives fall away and American and Iraqi deaths mount, we seem to know less and less, certainly about "where we are going to end." Thus we arrive at our present therapeutic moment—the moment of "solutions," brought on by the recognition, three and a half years on, that we have no idea how to "end" Phase Two. This is now a matter for James A. Baker's Iraq Study Group and the military's "strategic review team" and the new Democratic committee chairmen who will offer, to a chastened president who admits he thought "we would do all right" in the elections, the "new ideas" he now professes to welcome.[8] However quickly the discussion now moves to the geopolitical hydraulics, to weighing partition against partial withdrawal against regional conferences and contact groups and all the rest, the truth is that none of these proposals, alone or in combination, will end the war anytime soon.

Read the whole thing.

November 27, 2006 | Permalink


Rory Stewart might be even better.

Posted by: somecallmetim | Nov 27, 2006 11:56:49 AM

It was a very interesting read, but after 12,000 words, I still don't know who ordered Bremmer to de-Baathify and to disband the Iraq army.

Posted by: Quiddity | Nov 27, 2006 12:26:50 PM

This is a great piece, and it really highlights the essential incompetence of the Bush team. They were children, utterly out of their depth. Seriously, how profoundly dysfunctional is your decisionmaking process when your NSA either doesn't notice that she's being cut out of all decisions on the key security issue facing the nation, or she notices but doesn't care?

Frankly, I'm amazed at how many journalists fell for the Bush Administration's "we're grownups" schtick. Yes, they wear suits and have really well-staged photo-ops. And their meetings start and end on time. But punctuality is not the same thing as competence. Not by a long shot. And yet journalists still appear incapable of getting past appearances with this gang.

I think my favorite line encapsulating the Bush Administration's fundamental misunderstanding of the Iraq situation was: "Saddam Hussein and the autocracy he ruled were the product of a dysfunctional politics, not the cause of it." Likewise, this piece points out that the Bush Administration's catastrophe in Iraq was the product of a failed administration, not the cause of it.

I'm wondering what part III will look like. I'm noticing that George Bush appears to be modeling the rest of his presidency after James Buchanan. Iraq, like the secession of southern states, is a problem whose resolution he's leaving to his successor. And, shockingly, he's out-Buchananing Buchanan--Jimmy started running out the clock with just 4 months left in his presidency and after his successor had been elected. Stinking George still has more than 2 years to go.

Posted by: theorajones | Nov 27, 2006 2:30:43 PM


Buchanan is probably the only US president who can reasonably claim to be worse than Bush.

One thing for sure -- W is going to have a whole lot more pages in the history books than most other US Presidents.

Posted by: KL | Nov 27, 2006 2:48:27 PM

Mark Danner's essay/review is just devastating to read, even for a bitter opponent of BushCo as I am. It is clear that Bush is not 'accountable' but 'responsible' for the Iraq disaster. This pretend-leader is really dangerous to our country, even for just two more years.

Theorajones has it right: ...the Bush Administration's catastrophe in Iraq was the product of a failed administration, not the cause of it.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Nov 27, 2006 4:42:08 PM

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