While I Was Out

I had to report for jury duty today and must do so tomorrow as well, although I’ve managed so far to wriggle out of being on an actual jury. Since I spent most of the day sitting around in the jurors’ “lounge,” I had plenty of time to read the New York Times. Until I get caught up with things and can sit down to blog, I’ll link to a couple of op eds in the Times to keep you entertained.

First, Tim Pritchard argues against conventional wisdom that the invasion of Iraq went just fine and that it was just the occupation that hit some bumps. He writes,

In fact, the short fight to get to Baghdad and the long one in which coalition forces have been engaged ever since have much in common. All the information about the nature of the trouble to come was apparent from the very first days of the war. If lessons learned then had been incorporated into military and political thinking, it would have injected a much needed dose of realism at an early stage.

Pritchard tells the story of the battle of Nasiriya in March 2003. The Marines, to their surprise, were met with heavy resistance from Shiite civilians — the people they had come to rescue from Saddam Hussein.

Of course, there were fanatical Sunni Saddam Fedayeen troops, as well as some desperate foreign jihadis, who fought that day. But untold hundreds of those who picked up weapons were simply civilians intent on defending homes against foreign invaders. The potent and complex mix of insurgency — Sunni and Shiite militants, foreign fighters and civilians — that causes such chaos in Iraq today was already apparent during the battle of Nasiriya. …

… what was most striking at Nasiriya in those very early days of the war was the refusal of freedom-deprived Iraqis to come forward and support coalition forces. At best, the civilians stood by and watched the American war machine thunder into town. At worst, they ran to arms stashes, grabbed AK-47s and took to the streets. Four days into the invasion, and already, instead of coming together, Iraqis were falling back into their faiths and tribes and killing coalition forces and each other.

I’m leaving out a lot of chilling stuff; you will want to read all of this. Fortunately it’s not behind the subscription firewall.

Thomas Edsall’s op ed is behind the subscription firewall, but I’ll quote from it more generously.

The G.O.P. is the party of risk, aggression, military assertion and dominance — an approach that led to the implosion in Iraq and the Republicans’ defeat in November. Now the Democrats have a chance to demonstrate a core difference in how the two parties calculate and manage risk.

In “Fiasco,” Thomas Ricks describes the results of the Republican approach: “Bush’s decision to invade Iraq … ultimately may come to be seen as one of the most profligate actions in the history of American foreign policy. … The U.S.-led invasion was launched recklessly, with a flawed plan for war and a worse approach to occupation.”

While inflicting destruction on the Iraqis, Bush multiplied America’s enemies and endangered this nation’s military, economic health and international stature. Courting risk without managing it, Bush repeatedly and remorselessly failed to accurately evaluate the consequences of his actions.

The embroilment in Iraq is not an aberration. It stems from core party principles equally evident on the domestic front. For a quarter-century, the Republican temper — its reckless drive to jettison the social safety net; its support of violence in law enforcement and in national defense; its advocacy of regressive taxation, environmental hazard and pro-business deregulation; its ‘remoralizing’ of the pursuit of wealth — has been judged by many voters as essential to America’s position in the world, producing more benefit than cost.

While some Republican long shots have paid off handsomely (the Reagan administration’s accelerated arms race arguably drove the former Soviet Union into bankruptcy), now the dice are turning up snake eyes. In November, voters concluded that the Bush administration had run one risk too many. After 40 years of ascendancy, the G.O.P. has provided Democrats with an opening.

The question is, of course, if the Dems are up to taking advantage of that opening. Edsall isn’t terribly confident that they are. But this paragraph provides some points for discussion:

Nonetheless, buried in a morass of campaign-season evasion were the outlines of a potentially salable political program. Representative Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Caucus chairman, pointed out that 16 of the seats the party won in November were suburban or exurban. He contended that the election marked the emergence of a new “metropolitan” populism, “a revolt of the center against the Rovian model of polarization politics.” In Emanuel’s view, “Prescription drugs, gas prices and economic populism are no longer associated with blue-collar downscale voters. Office park workers can be just as populist as industrial workers — they are struggling under rising college and health care costs too. They resent giveaways to H.M.O.s; they don’t want subsidies to oil companies when oil is 68 bucks a barrel. We are going to deal with the oil royalty issue, and we can cut the interest rates for student loans.”

I’ve got mixed feelings about Emanuel. But does anyone have any thoughts on “metropolitan” populism?