September 3, 2004

by Reb Yudel
Abu Ghraib: A strategic disaster for America

Matthew Yglesias:
As we continue contemplating the latest revelations from the Abu Ghraib investigations, it's worth keeping in mind that alongside considerations of truth, justice, and the American way, there are some very real strategic issues in play here. The United States has, at the moment, roughly zero credibility in the Arab world.

That's an enormous, show-stopping problem for the president's grand strategy of Middle East transformation because it's really, really hard to create political systems where the will of the majority prevails if the majority hates you.

At some level, the thinking inside the administration seems to be that maybe this doesn't matter, because we can resolve the wide problem of anti-Americanism in Arab countries by producing a successful outcome in Iraq.

But after a brief honeymoon, our problems with Arab public opinion in general simply replicated themselves among Iraqi Arab public opinion, which was baffled by our inability to provide security and basic infrastructure, and which is suspicious of our motives since America's Iraq policy has shifted so many times in the past twenty years.

Abu Ghraib was and is a powerful reason for Iraqis to think that the aforementioned problems were the result not of bungling, but of malice.

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