5 December 2003

Escape from Iraq...

This strategy is now being rammed down the throat of the Pentagon proconsul in Baghdad, Mr Paul Bremer, by Mr George W Bush's new 'realist' Deputy National Security Adviser, Mr Bob Blackwill. He answers to Ms Condoleezza Rice, not Mr Donald Rumsfeld, and is the new boss of Iraq. The Pentagon, Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Paul Wolfowitz, architects of the old 'idealist' strategy, are in retreat. The Iraqi Governing Council, which Mr Bremer reluctantly created, will be disbanded. Washington must find someone with whom it can do business, someone who can deliver order in return for power. That search is Mr Blackwill's job.

In a nutshell, Washington has bought the old British West Asia strategy, that you deal with local leaders and leave them to it. The fantasies of Mr Rumsfeld and of Mr Bush's recent 'world democracy' speech are at an end. There must be no second Vietnam in Iraq. Necessity has become the mother of humiliating invention.

We shall never know if Mr Rumsfeld's adventure could have turned out otherwise. As his weapons of mass destruction vanished in the desert air, so has his belief in a 'new democratic beacon in West Asia'. That collapsed from the minute he peremptorily tore up the State Department's Future of Iraq Project shortly before the invasion and ostracised its staff. His faith in corrupt expatriates was crazy. His post-invasion demolition of Mr Saddam Hussein's state apparatus removed the institutions and disciplines on which any government depends.

Well that would explain the mystery of Paul Bremer and the Forgotten Census of Doom.

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