Wednesday, March 22, 2006

IRAQ: Ship Out, or Shape Up?

The Iraqi government can’t govern, the Iraqi security forces can’t secure, and public services can’t serve the public.
The occupation forces occupy only enclaves from which they raid and to which they retreat.
The citizens are left to fend for themselves, trapped in a no-man's land between the local militias and the U.S. military.

Majorities in the U.S. and Iraq (including the U.S. troops) are keen for an American exit for a variety of reasons but are these wishes sensible, reasonable or just emotional?
With Iraq nearly or already in a state of civil war would a U.S. departure help stabilize or improve the situation or would it accelerate a descent into further chaos?

If the US were to leave “immediately” then there will indeed be a full blown civil war as each interested group will seek to gain control and establish their own order and primacy. These groups will probably seek, and will certainly be offered, support from foreign neighbors who will also likely attempt to influence the situation regardless. The US would be politically emasculated (as if it weren’t already).

If the US “stays the course” the sectarian violence will continue. The US will have the options of supporting one group and destroying another, or trying to destroy all militants. The latter option might actually force the rivals into a coalition against the US forces, so the former choice might be “preferable”.

If successful the supported victors will have to be magnanimous to the beaten rival to mitigate inevitable resentment and concomitant problems. It’s anyone’s guess whether that would actually happen. There is also the possibility that the general Iraqi population, sick of war, sick of the occupation, sick of the government and sick of the sectarianism might create a popular uprising; but with no particular authority to rebel against or negotiate with, such an effort would be long and bloody too.

There are two options that have yet to be discussed publicly:

One is to abandon the rest of the country to civil war and redeploy and consolidate US forces to the South where a concerted effort to rebuild infrastructure, order and good governance might provide a working example desirable enough to be adopted or demanded by the rest of the country in time.

The other option is to get serious. Deploy far more forces to provide sufficient security and control to allow political and physical infrastructure to develop and take root. Such an effort might even elicit support from other countries after a while.

Both of these latter options would require a complete change of attitude, management and leadership in the U.S. Such a change cannot realistically occur before 2008. In the meantime the violence and resentment will continue. Should such a change occur it would take time to organize and years to implement.

These are the options as I see them.

The last option is of course what should have happened in the first place had the U.S. administration been sincere in its declared aims and reasons. It is now the most difficult of the options to undertake. I’m inclined to think it would be the “best”. But whether it is really possible, I’ve no idea.

There are particulars to each of these options that I've chosen to ignore for the sake of brevity but which could significantly alter the possible outcome of any course of action (such as how and in what manner would the US forces leave, or what would happen to all the prisoners in US custody?).

But in broad terms that's the view from my armchair. What's yours?


Red Tory said...

Not sure that I agree some of the outcomes predicted in the various exit stategy scenarios you've outlined, but it's a thought provoking exercise in any event.

There need to be more serious discussions along these lines rather than the "Victory" and "Cut and Run" paradigms. (Typical polarization there, huh?)

I thought Brzezinski presented a very reasonable proposal last week for a phased withdrawl over the next couple of years "stage managed" to look like the Iraqis were calling the shots. It sounds cynical the way I put it there, but I think it's important for the Iraqis to feel they have a sense of control over their destiny rather than just being pawns in some "great game."

5th Estate said...


I used "might" quite liberally in the post in an attempt to avoid predictions, which are so often a fool's purchase.

Lack of serious discussion created this mess, serious discussion is indeed the only way out of it if any benefit is to be realized at all.

Withdrawal would ipso facto be "phased" but if Brzezinski thinks that over the next two years with this current administration and even after the upcoming congressional elections the US will withdraw in such a way as to actually improve the situation for the US or Iraq then he's more optimistic than I.

The big issue is that order has to be restored. Neither the US nor the Iraqis can do that at the moment. I think it behooves the US to make the effort to hand over to the Iraqis a better situation than currently exists and that would benefit the US AND the Iraqis in the long term.

Red Tory said...

Brzezinski was more interested in getting the Democrats focus on a legitimate alternative to Bush's open-ended commitment. It was kind of a pragmatic middle way between an all-out flight (or "redeployment" if you wish) and a prolonged involvement with no end-game in sight.

DoctorBoogaloo said...

How long do you suppose it will take before the oil fields are secure and the oil is flowing at peak capacity? And then -- especially then -- the U.S. will need to maintain a permanent military presence. (Hell, they're still securing the border beween North and South Korea... some 30,000 men.)
Bush said he's leaving it to future Presidents. (And considering the showdown with Iran is in its foetal stage, it could be many Administrations before 'Operation Freedom' is over.)
We're only six years into a new century. But Bush's debacle is still likely to top the list when it's over.

Snerd Gronk said...

How about a "Peace with Honour" strategy


Snerd Gronk said...

'As' Red, I 'like' the topic.

Well for starters, anything, and I mean A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G this administration has to offer, would suggest we look in the opposite direction. One could look at history and how other nations divested themselves from untenable occupations ... The Brits for example, the biggest Indian givers of all time ... Oh wait, there is a 'blairing' difference between a crown worn with honour and a toy one worn by a lap dog ...

Okay ... Restated more seriously, I think the problem is American Exceptionalism. Well Sir, I take exception to it ... Exception to its use as a positive term, providing positive influence. I do not think the options simple range along a continuum of Iraq with US troops vs. Iraq without US troops, a narrowed framing the 'ideology' of American Exceptionalism 'prescribes'.

The Arab world appeared to be dealing with the Islamist threat with some competence, and particularly competently once the US came along and lowered the definition of incompetence to new lows.

Just as the US gave the 9/11 project a boost by training the 9/11 pilots, the US gave the Islamist project a boost by getting involved with the creation of the Mujha Hadin in Afghanistan and training it ... Brzezinski was involved here was he not?

And even though propping up dictatorships and brutal monarchies has furthered the Islamist project in the Arab world, nothing has been as beneficial as the Attack upon secular Iraq, in promoting theocracy, there.

Why is it that Americans simply see a vacuum, where they are not involved? And positive possibilities because of their presence, often in spite of empirical evidence stubbornly and persistently defying that belief?

The egocentric belief in 'radical independence' and its 'freedom from context' is as pathological on the individual level as it is on the national level. Not only is it like trying to deal with the world with a Burka on, but one is also wearing the damn thing backwards.

Now that American unilateralism has the UN stretched and pinned down in Afghanistan ... or is it NATO now ... what about getting the Arab world involved in bringing stability to Iraq and dealing with the Islamists, with involvement from a slightly less 'exceptional' US?

Other than providing a range of possible solutions not provided for from the confines of American Exceptionalism ... oh, and signaling an end to PNAC, something Cheney won't let Bush do ... what would be the problem?


5th Estate said...


"what about getting the Arab world involved in bringing stability to Iraq and dealing with the Islamists, with involvement from a slightly less 'exceptional' US? "

I don't think there is an "Arab World". Arab nations tend to have a common interest in each maintaining their own national and social status quo. You'll notice that in past regional conflicts they certainly never commit military forces to each other ( at least not on their own accord). Iraqi's don't necessarily consider themselves Arab.
The Arabs are probably being smart not to interfere (or be seen to interfere) too much. They leave that to the usual suspects.

BTW...your blog looks like a vast expanse of featureless wilderness. Don't be so shy!

Snerd Gronk said...

No Arab World ... Well it's s-a-damn shame, but a point well taken.

As I thought about how to reframe my idea, by more selectively choosing terms that would pass muster, I first tried employ your idea of separate nation states (i.e. Kuwait, Saudi Arabian, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran), substituting it for Arab World, with the corroborating idea that the Nation States all have a vested interest in stability in the region. However, I realized while it sounds reasonable, I do not have sufficient knowledge of each surroundings state's intentions in this regard, to credibly make that claim. An anyway, the area is so incredibly complex … only a fool would fail to account for it, (R)ight!?

Balkanization might be supported by Iran because they would effectively acquire southern Iraq and be opposed by Turkey because of the pressures a Kurdish state in Iraq would exert on their own Kurdish minority. American withdrawal from the region might be supported by Iran and some Iraqis and opposed by the monarchies of the Saudis and Kuwait and some Iraqis. Well Brit, I am making your point, I guess, about there being no 'Arab World'.

In this context another theme arose, 'the interest in maintaining stability' and I realized that as a credible assertion, it is not a given. As a matter of fact, it elicited another theme and pet concern of mine, the ability for radical elements, though few in number, to gain direct control of, or hijack the intentions of the majority, and/or mechanisms of stability. Prime examples are the neocons of the (R) party, corporations of MSM, the radicals in the Israeli-Palestinian 'peace' process, spin doctors of a national dialogue, a few execs of a national energy policy, the V.P. of the presidency, etc.

What has become apparent to me is the ease with which small cabals can hijack processes, which either don't share their aims, or are antithetical to them. One-State-Solution radicals on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can easily disrupt the outbreak of peace between two states, with a military incursion or a suicide bomb, in spite of what I believe to be a majority desire for peace.

And I also began thinking that the more organized a system, generally the more hierarchical they tend to be these days, particularly if technology is used, and the more vulnerable they are. In fact I believe they threaten the very nature of civilization, or are beginning to do so. Control Diebold for example, and you control the American democratic process - some would say hypothetically, others would say as a factual case in point.

But in either case the point is, the more sophisticated we become, which is often to say the more centralized the functions of those systems become, the more they are vulnerable to being hijacked by the radical and motivated few. A form of asymmetrical warfare, if you will, which does not interface well with massive military might, if Iraq holds any conclusions for us. Or with multilateral UN resolutions and peacekeepers, if a suicide bomber or a few tanks in a refuge camp are also indicators. Hijacking any process is made easier with a somewhat complacent populas, if much that is political is assessed in America.

So our attempt a civilization, designed in part to protect us against the vagaries of nature and the more brutal amongst us, is itself a carrier for the reemergence of the vagaries of nature and the brutal, from which it attempted to extricate us in the first place. This might be one of the characteristic issues that demarcate our era.

If so, then our challenge is to recognize the threat posed to majorities and to moderates by radicals on the extremes who are able to derail our attempts to govern ourselves according to those democratic, majority and therefore probably moderate, values.


5th Estate said...

those last 4 paras of yours look like a blog post to me--think about it. Good stuff.

You bring up a whole new topic of course and an important one--bigger than the Iraq issue.
I agree with you.
The interconnectedness of modern society doesn't automatically create commonality such that we all begin to realize that everyone is basically the same, that there are fewer differences between people than we other wise thought and thus harmony will naturally develop.

Whilst say worldwide ATM's are a huge boon and for the sake of argument availbale to everyone,they also make everyone available to anyone who wants to "manage" and thus exploit their ubiquity, if you see what I mean ( sorry I'm not being as articulate as you at the moment).

Bottom line: those who actively seek to control not only their lives but the lives of others to conform to their own world view increasingly have the means to do so. Those who can't be bothered allow others to control them. The means are there more than ever before--the issue is perhaps a matter of will more than anything.

I think you have indeed identified an issue that will "demarcate our era"