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What Would People Think?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Why Everybody's Wrong About Iraq

Okay, that may be an overstatement. But as I survey the debate over Iraq (sad how it's taken the focus off of the Democrats' first 100 hours, as Matt observes), I'm hearing two general theories about how to proceed.....at least 2 theories coming from the mouths of our nation's leaders.

Bush's theory: We need to throw more troops into the mix to bring the violence down to a level where compromise and diplomacy among Iraq's warring factions is possible. Only when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has "breathing room" will he and Iraq's other leaders be able to beat back the radical elements and engage in some moderate political bargaining.

The Iraq Study Group Theory (for lack of a better term): This one is embraced by most Democrats and, increasingly, some Republicans....even conservatives like Sam Brownback. This theory states that we need to start withdrawing troops. Only then - without the crutch of American military power to hold them back from the abyss - Iraq's leaders will realize they must work toward the future on their own. Then they will compromise for the sake of their own survival.

Both these theories, in my mind, share a fatal flaw. They are dependent on the good will - or at least the enlightened self-interest - of Iraq's leaders, especially the Shiite-dominated Maliki government. And those are 2 qualities I see in short supply.

One of the major reasons strategies like "Clear, Hold, and Build" didn't work was that the Maliki government cravenly and unabashedly sought sectarian power above all other values. The strategy called for 5 or 6 (I forget which) Iraqi battalions to secure Baghdad from militias and insurgents. Maliki sent 2. Whenever the American or Iraqi military moved against Shiite militias like those run by Moktada al-Sadr, Maliki would cut them off or protest. The "build" portion fell flat because the Maliki government directed reconstruction money away from Sunni neighborhoods. And don't get me started on the monumentally idiotic way they executed Saddam Hussein!

Iraq's Shiite leadership isn't interested in building consensus with their Sunni former oppressors. They are interested in taking their long-denied power and reaping its benefits. And the Kurds.....hell, all they want is for the others to let them stay out of this and build their own nation.

So all the plans for "victory" that I'm hearing seem to rely on good will that doesn't exist. Indeed, how can anything like "victory" be achieved when everybody just wants to grab for more power?

Rodney King once said "Can't we all just get along?" I imagine the Iraqi leadership might respond "You can't make us!"

2 Comments:

  • Yeah, that's a polite, verbose way of saying, "We're fucked".

    We have to depend on the good will of the Maliki government, because there's nothing else. I agree that I don't trust them any farther than I can throw them, but if nothing else, it will hopefully be easier to engage in diplomacy with a government that, frankly, owes us something. Granted, diplomacy is something I haven't come to look for from this administration, but, um, well, er, 2 years and 8 days! Woo!

    And anyway, when you said, "They are interested in taking their long-denied power and reaping its benefits," it reminded me of certain other political groups...

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/13/2007 10:52 AM  

  • So all the plans for "victory" that I'm hearing seem to rely on good will that doesn't exist. Indeed, how can anything like "victory" be achieved when everybody just wants to grab for more power?

    Ben, the only way to really achieve "victory" is to recognize that the true enemies are Iran and Syrai, the main supporters of the terrorists in Iraq. The Iraqi gov't is a non-entity; as soon as US troops leave the country, it will likely collapse, as it cannot control the Kurdish north or the Sunni center.

    The best part of Bush's escalation plan was its contingency on Iraqi effectiveness... that gives Bush an out, and a way to save face when US troops leave.

    By Blogger Michael, at 1/29/2007 9:55 AM  

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