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December 17, 2004

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Why Does David Ignatius Still Have a Job Edition)

Why does the Washington Post still employ David Ignatius?

Matthew Yglesias writes:

TAPPED: December 2004 Archives: DON'T SAY YOU WEREN'T WARNED. The Washington Post's David Ignatius writes "How Iran is Winning in Iraq":

If you had asked an intelligence analyst two years ago to describe the worst possible political outcome following an American invasion of Iraq, he might well have answered that it would be a regime dominated by conservative Shiite Muslim clerics with links to neighboring Iran. But just such a regime now seems likely to emerge after Iraq's Jan. 30 elections. . . . [F]uture historians will wonder how it happened that the United States came halfway around the world, suffered more than 1,200 dead and spent $200 billion to help install an Iraqi government whose key leaders were trained in Iran. Our Iraq policy may be full of good intentions, but in terms of strategy, it is a riderless horse.

I would never hold a single columnist responsible for the situation, but writings like "Possibilities of a New Iraq" by David Ignatius on October 7, 2002 surely played a role here:

Many analysts warn of the disasters that await in this postwar Iraq, but frankly I'm not convinced. . . . And the talk of Iraq's internecine strife is overblown, too. The long-repressed Shiite community forms a majority of its population, which leads some analysts to fear Shiites will create a radical Muslim regime. But the Shiites of Iraq are Arabs who stayed loyal to Hussein through nearly a decade of war against the Persians of Iran. Iraq's Shiite elite has been the country's leading modernizers, supplying more than their share of scientists and engineers.

This notwithstandig, Ignatius chooses to blame "ethicists in San Francisco" for the current situation. Somehow, I'm not buying it.

Posted by DeLong at December 17, 2004 03:02 PM

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Comments

There are a large number of people wandering around the halls of the wapo submitting op-eds for which they are overpaid, i'm sure, who merit the headline on this posting, although ignatieff is certainly one of them.

Posted by: howard at December 17, 2004 03:30 PM


The ironic thing is that Ignatius actually wrote a very good spy novel called agents of innocence which ends with the main Arab character lecturing the American spy on how little the Americans understand the arab world.

Posted by: pi at December 17, 2004 06:06 PM


Not to mention, Ignatius is wrong in this column, completely aside from his poor memory of his own recent stances. The worst possible outcome in Iraq was never the clear triumph of any one faction; it was the absence of any such triumph - a civil war that would tear up Iraq and leave its people living in such great fear of getting caught in the crossfire that they would long for the relative stability that they knew under Saddam.

- - - - - - - - -

The appropriate solution for the WaPo op-ed page is a near-complete purge. Keep Dionne, replace everyone else. Broder and Will are old farts who haven't had a new idea in 20 years. Novak sees every issue in terms of how it affects party politics; if India and Pakistan had a nuclear war that turned the subcontinent into a glowing crater, Novak would be about whether the Dems or the GOP could take better advantage. Krauthammer's gone so far over the edge that there's no pulling him back. Richard Cohen is the prototypical example of a worthless wishy-washy not-very-liberal. Raspberry used to have some genuine insights, but his well has run dry in recent years. Robert Samuelson writes on economics, but without any insight or knowledge. And so on.

Posted by: RT at December 17, 2004 08:11 PM


From Ignatieff's column:
"Given the stakes for the United States in these elections, you might think we would quietly be trying to influence the outcome. But I am told that congressional insistence that the Iraqi elections be "democratic" has blocked any covert efforts to help America's allies. That may make sense to ethicists in San Francisco, but how about to the U.S. troops on the ground?"

Ah, our spineless GOP Congress--always doing the bidding of San Francisco ethicists.

That's some kooky parallel universe Ignatieff comes from.

Posted by: Ottnott at December 17, 2004 10:40 PM


"congressional insistence that the Iraqi elections be "democratic" has blocked any covert efforts to help America's allies. That may make sense to ethicists in San Francisco"

Perhaps Ignatieff is attacking Waxman, or Feinstein, or Pelosi??

Posted by: tjallen at December 18, 2004 05:14 AM


"congressional insistence that the Iraqi elections be 'democratic' has blocked any covert efforts to help America's allies."

This is not true. The US is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into an effort to manipulate Iraq's internal politics. Much of this is being done through the quasi-governmental National Democratic Institute (NDI) and National Republican Institute (NRI). These organizations are training and funding parties and individuals likely to favor US policies.

A useful though not official overview of US political goals in Iraq, by William Robinson of UCSB is here:


http://repositories.cdlib.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=gis


Any government we leave behind in Iraq (not to say that we're actually leaving) will be tainted in Iraqi eyes. There is nothing we can do to change this other than to completely give up our war aims. That would entail relinquishing any attempt to dictate its future, control its resources, or station troops inside its borders. The Bush administration does not want to do that. So I believe we will be fighting a war in Iraq until, as in Vietnam, the combination of Iraqi resistance and US antiwar sentiment forces our government to stop.

Posted by: No Preference at December 18, 2004 05:27 AM


So "covert efforts" are what underpins "democratic elections" in BushWorld. Who would have thought?

Posted by: Steve at December 18, 2004 10:43 AM


To his credit, Ignatius was the only mainstream journalist I've seen who pointed out that, given the nature of states, spycraft, etc, you'd *expect* Saddam to have had minor contacts with Al Qaeda.

Posted by: liberal at December 19, 2004 08:03 PM


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