A Hawk Questions Himself as His Son Goes to War: "None of this predetermines the outcome, of course, or foretells the consequences of a muddled success or a blurred failure in Iraq. Historians have the comfort of knowing how past wars played out. But short of clairvoyance, no one can forecast the outcome and the second- or third-order effects of events as they unfold. Five or even 10 years from now, we still may not be able to judge our Iraq venture in a definitive way. Unfortunately, that philosophical detachment is cold consolation in the here and now, as young men and women go off to war."
Others -- Atrios, Brad DeLong, Belgravia -- have quoted Cohen, with regard to his contempt for the incompetence of the Bush administrations.
What interests me is the confusion of narrative with analysis.
In a narrative, one event follows another; the drama is the struggle to overcome and the climax resolves the action; in prospect, there are many contingencies, and we can never forecast the "outcome" in all its manifold glories. We love stories, but stories are not analysis.
Analysis is about systemic necessity. One thing does not "follow" another; one variable relates to another, one thing drives another, and the system functions, the system is under control . . . or not.
Analysis is the basis of science -- it is Newton's laws of motion, Darwin's natural selection. It is dramatic and epic in its own way, but not in the way of Homer's Illiad or Genesis or Washington Crossing the Delaware.
Cohen says, "If we fail in Iraq -- and I don't think we will -- it won't be because the American people lack heart, but because leaders and institutions have failed." And, that belief that we will not fail is defended by the paragraph I quoted above, by the substitution of narrative uncertainties for analysis.
Analysis Cohen is capable of. The article is chock full of pithy summaries of analysis. The analysis all points at one capital fact: the U.S. has failed in Iraq. Over and over again, the U.S. has failed. The U.S. failed most critically in the reconstruction, which has stalled, sucked dry by corruption. The U.S. has failed to keep order -- from the earliest days of large-scale looting down to the cluster screw-up at Abu Ghraib to every damn day.
The present leadership and the present "strategy" has failed. And, the present leadership promises to "stay the course", a failed course.
Cohen says, "For this president, the war is the defining decision of his tenure, and he knows it. Whatever his faults may be, a lack of determination is not one of them. And in war, character -- and above all persistence -- counts for a very great deal."
Yes, character does count for a great deal, and this President's character accounts for the U.S. failure in Iraq. Bush is a coward. Bush is a liar. Bush is a lazy, unaccomplished, callous, seriously uncurious man. If the U.S. had credible plan for the occupation and reconstruction in Iraq, that responsibility goes right to George W. Bush. We did not have a plan, because George does not know enough about history, organization, government or anything else, to realize that that he needed to have one and a good one. He did not demand a good, well-reasoned plan from his subordinates. And, that is why we have failed in Iraq. No plan. And, we have had no plan, becuase of George's weakness of character.
We have failed in Iraq, and as we continue to continue, we continue to fail.
The greatest tragedy is that many Iraqis wanted our success, in order to have their own success, and it is they, more than we, who will suffer the failure in all its prolonged horror.
For George W. Bush, the failure will be the latest in a long, long list of failures, and he may not notice.
Will America notice? And, will America blame the Republicans, as they should? That will not depend on analysis, but on narrative and the dramatic unfolding of events -- the coming storm.