|The New York Times
Brahimi's Two Mistakes
By WILLIAM SAFIRE April 26, 2004
U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the Bush administration's great Arab hope to appoint a transition government that would bring democracy to Iraq, is off to a troubling start.
His first mistake was to announce on French radio that "the great poison in the region is this Israeli policy of domination and the suffering imposed on the Palestinians," as well as the "equally unjust support of the United States for this policy."
That freelance condemnation was too
much for even Kofi Annan, who sent
out his official spokesman to explain that Brahimi was "a former
foreign minister of Algeria" who was "expressing his personal views"
and not necessarily those of the secretary general.
Undaunted by this rebuke (U.N.
officials are not empowered to condemn
member nations), Brahimi went
on ABC television to tell George
Stephanopoulos in an interview taped Friday that
This supposedly fair-minded international civil servant — in whom we are entrusting the delicate assignment to negotiate a path to free elections among Iraqi Sunnis, Shia, Kurds and other groups — then used his ABC-TV forum to make his second mistake.
As the world knows all too well,
the insurgent forces combining
Saddam's experienced killers and Al Qaeda terrorists have taken control
of Falluja, near Baghdad.
Obliteration is not an option; we are not
Putin's Russians taking Grozny after leveling it.
This presents us with a trio of
options. Here is what the
his National Security Council and top field commanders have been
wrestling with this past weekend:
Do we continue to try to negotiate
with the insurgents holding the
city's residents hostage, with our forces taking casualties almost
every day? A series of broken truces would show restraint
compassion for civilians but would be taken for weakness by many
throughout Iraq. Terrorists would then attempt similar standoffs
other cities, with more casualties in the long run.
Or do we send in our marines and
other troops, backed by tanks and
choppers, to end the Falluja insurgency? That would risk
immediate level of bloodshed on all sides for a brief period — thereby
potentially infuriating Arabs everywhere who would see the suffering on
Al Jazeera television.
Or do we search for some third way — patiently recruit and train former Iraqi soldiers, pay them plenty, and run joint patrols with U.S. marines — in hopes that we can slowly grind down the opposition before it bleeds us to despair? If this compromise doesn't work, we could then choose option one or two: interminable delay, or fight to win.
Either the coalition will take charge of Falluja or the insurgents will create a capital for their comeback. Unless the terrorists turn in real weapons, the liberation should assert control, neighborhood by neighborhood, with enough infantry power to make the battle of Falluja as short and decisive as possible.
diplomat Brahimi evades the choice, which is his second
mistake. "In this situation," he says, "there is no
elevates that to a philosophy: "There
is never any military solution to
any problem." Pacifism
has its adherents, but when bin Laden's agents
are shooting at liberators, do you turn the city, and ultimately the
country, over to them?
Brahimi, diplomats assure me, is
not really a pacifist; Algerians did
not drive out the French without bloody warfare. His strategy is
gain quick local support by denouncing Israel (always an Arab
street-pleaser) and by aligning the U.N. with those Iraqis who — having
been cured of crippling despotism — now feel free to throw their
crutches at the doctor.
As semi-sovereignty approaches, Iraqi politicians, except for Kurds, curry voter favor by complaining about having to join the fight for Iraqi freedom. Ayatollah al-Sistani is so fearful that a fiery upstart backed by Iran's Hezbollah will steal his followers that he competes by demanding a tyranny of the Shia majority.
The U.N.'s militantly pacifist Brahimi is
falling in with this
anti-Western Arab demagoguery. In embracing him so
readily as the
acceptable legitimator, Bush's heart may have been too soon made