Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Gopher Smashers

Did you ever go to the arcade and play the game where gophers pop up out of the holes and you have to smash them with a hammer before they hide and pop up somewhere else? Well, that seems to be the game we’re playing in Iraq, according to Paul Krugman.

Again and again, administration officials have insisted that some particular evildoer is causing all our problems. Last July they confidently predicted an end to the insurgency after Saddam’s sons were killed. In December, they predicted an end to the insurgency after capturing Saddam himself. Six weeks ago — was it only six weeks? — Al Qaeda was orchestrating the insurgency, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the root of all evil. The obvious point that we’re facing widespread religious and nationalist resentment in Iraq, which is exploited but not caused by the bad guy du jour, never seems to sink in.

The situation in Falluja seems to have been greatly exacerbated by tough-guy posturing and wishful thinking. According to The Jerusalem Post, after the murder and mutilation of American contractors, Mr. Bush told officials that “I want heads to roll.” Didn’t someone warn him of the likely consequences of attempting to carry out a manhunt in a hostile, densely populated urban area?

And now we have a new villain. Yesterday Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez declared that “the mission of the U.S. forces is to kill or capture Moktada al-Sadr.” If and when they do, we’ll hear once again that we’ve turned the corner. Does anyone believe it?

When will we learn that we’re not going to end the mess in Iraq by getting bad guys? There are always new bad guys to take their place. And let’s can the rhetoric about staying the course. In fact, we desperately need a change in course.

I’m also reminded of the deranged Bill Murray in Caddyshack. And you’ll remember that in that story, the gopher won.