Downplaying the possibility that elections might produce an Islamic fundamentalist theocracy, Colin Powell says Iraqis know that ``to be successful as a 21st-century country'' and to have ``international acceptability,'' they must be ``a country that preserves human rights, that is founded on democracy, that respects the rights of all individuals and respects the rights of women, that respects basic tenets ... of human rights that all of us believe in.'' But international acceptability, in the form of seats on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, has been conferred on Cuba, Libya, Syria and Sudan. And how many Iraqis define ``a successful 21st-century country'' as we do?
Elections will yield evidence. But elections and reconstruction -- KBR, the largest contractor in Iraq, has had 35 employees killed -- require a much lower level of violence, which requires winning the war, which may mean more U.S. forces.
Comparisons of the Iraq War, now in its 14th month, with the Vietnam War are commonplace. But today's war also can be compared to the Korean War, in one particular that may become increasingly pertinent.
After China intervened in Korea and peace talks began (in July 1951, the war's 13th month), it became clear that the war aim was to be only the status quo before North Korea's invasion in June 1950, not unification of Korea. Soon U.S. troops said they were being asked to ``die for a tie.''
The April 26 -- what? accommodation? -- in Fallujah may threaten the morale of U.S. forces in Iraq. Marines chose to abandon the block-by-block uprooting of resistance rather than, in the Marines' formulation, ``turn Fallujah into Dresden.'' This may have been prudent, but it turned Fallujah into a symbol of, and recipe for, successful resistance to U.S. forces. How do U.S. forces now understand their mission -- to kill insurgents, or to enlist them in keeping order? If the latter, for how long?
The ally America needs in Iraq is Iraq. That is, an Iraqi government to which a majority consents and some minority factions defer, however sullenly. Other factions must be violently suppressed with, the president earnestly hopes, significant help from new Iraqi forces seen to be working in tandem with elected Iraqi authorities.
``You must first,'' said Madison in Federalist 51, ``enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.'' First things first.