it’s easy to understand why the united states would be cautious in trusting the iraqis. one wrong decision could put more american lives at risk. however, i wonder whether we have been missing opportunities to keep the iraqis who don’t support the insurgents from switching sides. that’s one conclusion to be drawn from this new yorker piece. the writer, george packer, believes that there is more that we could have done, and that there is more we could do to support the iraqis who have proven themselves to be trustworthy allies in our combined struggle against the insurgents. he makes a strong argument, and it only reinforces the belief that iraq is far more complex than the bush administration expected it to be.

there is one particular part of his article that i found interesting — where mr. packer asks the iraqis he’s interviewing what they expected when the americans took over in iraq.

Whenever I asked Iraqis what kind of government they had wanted to replace Saddam’s regime, I got the same answer: they had never given it any thought. They just assumed that the Americans would bring the right people, and the country would blossom with freedom, prosperity, consumer goods, travel opportunities. In this, they mirrored the wishful thinking of American officials and neoconservative intellectuals who failed to plan for trouble. Almost no Iraqi claimed to have anticipated videos of beheadings, or Moqtada al-Sadr, or the terrifying question “Are you Sunni or Shia?” Least of all did they imagine that America would make so many mistakes, and persist in those mistakes to the point that even fair-minded Iraqis wondered about ulterior motives. In retrospect, the blind faith that many Iraqis displayed in themselves and in America seems naïve. But, now that Iraq’s demise is increasingly regarded as foreordained, it’s worth recalling the optimism among Iraqis four years ago.

both sides had the same optimism at the beginning of this process. iraq’s future is still in doubt, and i don’t think that anyone can say with certainty how this whole thing will play out in the long run. there is still a possibility that iraq could be stabilized, but i’m not sure that the american people have the patience to wait for that to happen. there are some positive signs from the current surge, but it may not be enough to keep the politicians from deciding how our involvement in iraq will end.