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August 30, 2007

Allowing for Allawi

Allawi And Bush

AJ explains why Ayad Allawi is not the answer to Iraq's leadership woes:

Allawi already had a shot at the position -- and he was terrible. He was appointed interim prime minister in May 2004, keeping the position until he was replaced in April 2005 by Ibrahim Jaafari (following the January '05 elections). If that sounds like the time when the insurgency really started to heat up, well . . . it was. Allawi's tenure was marked by corruption, a feckless approach to basic services, and a widespread perception of thuggishness. In one particularly intense episode, he's said to have personally (and summarily) executed six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station. Perhaps most importantly, his support for the devastating military incursions into Fallujah and Najaf in 2004 earned him the hatred of both Shia and Sunni Iraqis. As a postscript to this illustrious record, after the latest elections, he basically disappeared to London and Jordan -- when Ambassador Crocker was asked about Allawi recently, according to NYTimes, he "said he only spoke to people who actually came to Iraq."

So why are Westerners so intent on hyping him?

Allawi is precisely the kind of leader the uninformed pundit class loves. Just as David Broder can wax pathetic about Michael Bloomberg for his "leadership" and "post-partisan" positioning, other observers label Allawi "tough" and "non-sectarian." These kind of vague labels are music to the ears of pundits, neocons, and deluded war supporters alike, and Allawi gets disproportionate attention because he is essentially a Westerner. He speaks English well, is comfortable among elites from London to Amman to Washington, and knows that the surest route to political acceptance in the US is a massively expensive lobbying campaign by former Bush administration officials. But when it comes down to it, Allawi has about as much support for Iraqi PM as Bloomberg does for US president . . . and from the same types of people.

There's another reason, too: Call it to "Do Something" fallacy. Most American pundits would, in honesty, tell you they don't know that much about Iraq and they really don't know how to fix the country's woes. Most American pundits would, in honesty, get fired for writing columns that reflected such self-awareness. So they need to say something when things are going wrong. Allawi happens to be a name they already know, associated with a period in Iraq that was better than the current moment, and is superficially free of the sectarian bickering which is tearing the country apart. He makes perfect "Do Something" fodder, and that's what pundits need.

And then, of course, there's the massive lobbying campaign designed to sell Allawi to American elites...

August 30, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Except that pundits almost never get fired for any reason.

Having an op-ed column at the WaPo is like being a tenured professor at Harvard: you get to hold on to that prestigious piece of real estate until you decide to hang up your keyboard.

Forget Broder or Krauthammer - how else does one explain Robert J. Samuelson?

Posted by: low-tech cyclist | Aug 30, 2007 9:18:26 AM

These pundits have been saying the same things for years, as the situation has gone to h*ll. It isn't an accident; these guys are in the tank. If word has come down to back Allawi, they will. Maliki is no longer Our Savior, but A Problem (as in, to be eliminated).

Posted by: Barry | Aug 30, 2007 2:59:27 PM

Good points all by the, uh, other AJ. Though I think Ignatius'd column today in the WaPo goes far beyond mere Broderian cluelessness into really vile DC Salon version of the 'Stabbed in Back' theory.

Posted by: AJ | Aug 30, 2007 7:09:57 PM

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Posted by: judy | Oct 11, 2007 6:43:35 AM

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