Now that the Iraq war is moving into its twilight phase -- security contractors protecting a massive U.S. diplomatic presence -- it would appear that Americans who should know better are expecting a new era of Sweets And Flowers to greet the military's departure. "I believe that Iraq should reimburse the United States fully for the amount of money that we have spent to liberate these people," contends Michele Bachmann, reflecting the widespread belief that These People owe us for the tens of thousands of their countrymen the U.S. "liberated" from their lives. Even journalists for major national newsweeklies think the Iraqis owe U.S. troops some kind of medal.
Against that bullshit is Chris Hill, recently the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Hill, an able diplomat, was generally considered a failure as ambassador, apparently due to his reportedly poor working relationship with then-commander Ray Odierno. But Hill has an understanding of the fundamentals of the U.S.-Iraq relationship that's rare amongst officialdom. For instance:
Mr. Hill, the former ambassador, expressed similar misgivings about whether any amount of continued intervention could create the strong ally the United States hoped would be the legacy of a war that took so many American and Iraqi lives and strained America’s coffers.
“We can say it is an ally,” Mr. Hill said, “but an invasion is never a very good basis for forming an alliance.”
Ice cold. Hill speaks to the central question looming over one of the most disastrous and stupid wars in American history: in the final analysis, what did we get? The Washington foreign-policy perma-bureaucracy never tires of telling itself that it can get Iraq to some semblance of an alliance -- in professional bullshit peddler Michael Gerson's hacknied Bush-era phrase, an Iraq "that remains an ally in the war on terrorism." And while that perma-bureaucracy is having a good laugh at the cretinous Bachmann, that attitude has the same intellectual foundation: that post-Saddam Iraq owes the U.S. something, and believes it should be pursuing America's interests, rather than its own.
"I guess very thoughtful people believe there should be some residual presence in Iraq," Hill sighs to the New York Times, knowing better. "But there are many Americans who don't want to hear the word 'Iraq' and are not really behind a continued presence." They, also, know better.