"This is the twilight zone - And you're not on your own"
VDH on Iraq and Afghanistan:
Do we now remember the impassable peaks, the snowy haunts of the Taliban that were too high for us, or Kabul, the dreaded graveyard of all imperial expeditions? It was just a few months ago, it seems now, that we were admonished about the fury of retaliation to come for daring to fight during Ramadan, the impossibility of working with a nuclear and Islamic Pakistan, and the Wild West nature of Afghanistan's tribes so impossible to forge into the stuff of consensual government. And it was worse still than all that: the cries on the hard left of millions of refugees to come; the European warning about thousands of dead from indiscriminate American bombing; the need to adjudicate 9/11 by jurisprudence rather than arms; and the crazy conspiracy theories of pipelines, neo-cons, 'Jews,' Likuds, and CIA plots.
Do we remember all this and more when we talk nonchalantly now of elections in Afghanistan or the decency of the Karzai government? Is there a Frenchman or a German to be had at least to say in retrospect, "Yes, you were not the cowboys we slurred you as, but brought something good where there was only evil before"? Do we ponder if but for a second how improbable — indeed, how absolutely preposterous — it was at the time to even suggest that the Afghan people would soon stand in line hours to vote, freed from those who had so sorely oppressed them?
So, I think, it will be too even in Iraq, improbable as that may now seem to some. Already we have forgotten the long ride to Baghdad — when our ex-generals warned of thousands of dead to come in a deadly siege, and were trumped by relief workers who assured us of millions more refugees. Then there were the cries of defeat when our forces plowed through a windstorm — as our supposed Dresden-like shock and awe were suddenly mocked not as too terrible but as laughably impotent. We grow depressed now at the canned pessimism of our talking heads who predict failure in post-bellum Iraq — forgetting that these same prophets swore to us just months ago that thousands would die getting to Baghdad.
Yet despite them all, and after this bloody month of November, here we are now on the eve of elections — the most unlikely of all events in the last half-century of civilization. Just think of it: In place of the past Hussein mass murdering and the present ogres of Fallujah, we are to witness an effort to jump-start democracy in the heart of the caliphate of old, right between the world's worst two governments in Syria and Iran, amid treacherous folk like the Saudis, Jordanians, and al Jazeera cheering the insurgents on. How did we come this far and get so close, when the unprincipled such as Jacques Chirac shunned the once-wounded democrat Allawi and sent his plane instead to fetch the murderer Arafat — a profiteer in the guise of a 'leader' who hand-in-glove with Saddam Hussein made France billions in Iraq and then lectured about morality to those who slammed the cash register drawer on his stealthy hands. How could we ever contemplate the chance of elections when the Saudis, the Syrians, and the Iranians sent millions of dollars and thousands of jihadists to stop it all — lest the virus of freedom spread?