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Let's Get Serious about Iraq


US politicians, and most of the world, offer two unpalatable options for solving the problem of Iraq:

1. "Keep doing what US and allies are doing and continue to disaster."
2. "Get out now and bring on the disaster more quickly.

This dismal conclusion is evident from the debacle of Joe Lieberman in the US . Lieberman offered more of the same. His opponent offered "get out now." Even among US Democrats, there seem to be only different flavors of disaster on the menu.
Neither defeat nor pointless continuation of the agony of Iraq is acceptable to the American electorate, nor should it be acceptable to the world. It is probable that John Kerry lost in 2004 in part because he didn't provide a convincing alternative. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has tried since then to enlist European support -- which was part of Kerry's idea, but that isn't really a realistic option and the US electorate understood it then. Kerry just didn't have a solution.

However, just because politicians do not offer a solution, that does not mean there isn't one.

One may conclude that, "only the Iraqis can put their country back together again," which is a rationale for a graceful exit. That is a truism that everyone understands, but the Iraqis cannot do it without a lot of help. It is like the venerable cartoon of U.S. Conservative politician Barry Goldwater, telling some poor unfortunate, "If you had any initiative you would go out and inherit a hotel." The vast majority of Iraqis do not want to blow each other up; it only takes small groups to create the chaos we see there now, with the help of various outside factors. Groups like the Mahdi Army and Al-Qaeda and the Baathists would be only too happy to put the country "back together," but the results would be unfortunate for Iraq, for America and for the whole Middle East.

There are internal problems in Iraq, but they are exacerbated greatly by outside pressures that feed the militias. Eventually Iraq will be "fixed" somehow. It won't stay in chaos for a hundred years. So it is not "unfixable." If the US and allies do not "fix" Iraq, then Syria and Iran or Russia or Al-Qaeda may "fix" Iraq. When the US & company pulled out of Lebanon, Syria moved in and "fixed" the supposedly "unfixable" civil war. Vladimir Putin has given an example of how he "fixes" things in Chechnya, remarkably similar to the way in which USSR "fixed" Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the bad old days. Those are some alternatives -- they might be the optimistic ones.

Pouring more money in is not going to help if it goes to line the pockets of US executives and corrupt politicians. But nobody will convince me as yet that either giving up or pretending that everything is OK and continuing in the same way are the only alternatives, because it seems that nobody really tried to win.

The amazing thing about the US Democrats (and everyone else for that matter) is that nobody really seems to be criticizing corruption and incompetence. Is it really possible to believe that oversight over where the dollars are going will not help? Is it really possible to believe that developing a real military intelligence capability will not help? Can anyone really argue that US troops were trained to win hearts and minds by their actions, and that it just so happened that the unreasonable Iraqis don't like being raped, tortured and murdered? When the same terror (excuse me, "militant") tactics are used over and over to blow up unguarded crowds, can it really be argued that lessons are being learned and applied?

On the one side there are those like the gung-ho Republicans and Joe Lieberman who want to continue marching over the cliff. That is called "Staying the course," or more accurately, "Going down with the ship." On the other side, the opposition, which is ideologically opposed to the war; they advocate getting out at any cost. In the middle, there are a lot of people who realize there is a problem that needs to be solved rather than being met with denial or defeatism, but they have no political representation.

The Iraquagmire is not about some politician getting elected in Illinois or Wisconsin, or about "proving" some ideological point about "democracy" or "neo-cons" or "American Imperialism." The stakes are much bigger than that, for Iraqis, for Americans, and for the Middle East. It is long past time for everyone to get serious about Iraq.

Ami Isseroff

Cross posted at Tharwa Commentary at http://tharwacommunity.typepad.com/tharwa_commentary/2006/10/lets_get_seriou.html

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Replies: 6 comments

yes Ami,
Please do englighten us on a SOLUTION. LOL.

Posted by john @ 10/02/2006 02:55 PM CST

Thank you again for a good topic. I would classify the Kerry and Murtha plans for redeploying troops as a plan that needs further investigation.

Kerry offered his plan in June, 2006, to redeploy troops by July 2007, leaving some troops either offshore or near the Iraq border to aid the Iraq army/police. Murtha's plan was a bit longer. But, before these plans were even discussed outside of Congress, the current administration called Democratic plans for redeployment "cut and run". Since the Dems were too timid to ask the Prez just what he meant by "cut and run" and challenge him on it, those plans never saw the light of day.

It seems, that with 300,000 Iraqi military/police, regardless of their immediate expertise, some realization should be made of the fact that even Bush said, "When Iraq steps up, we will step down".

Posted by Larry @ 10/03/2006 11:33 PM CST

Whether the outcome from the present situation is a "solution" is a matter of subjective judgement. US voters will not regard an outcome that is bad for US interests or seems to be a failure by the US as a "solution". Nevertheless the most likely outcome seems to be one that is bad for US interests and makes the US look like a loser. For the US voters there may very well be mo solution. The things Ami suggests to improve the situation are very sensible amd would certainly help, but would only amount to an amelioration of a probably irreversibly bad state of affairs.

Posted by Clear Eyes @ 10/06/2006 10:48 AM CST

Yes let the United States look like losers. lol. Because they lost. Bad cause to go to Iraq, now bad cause to get out. That is what happens when you DO NOT TAKE GOING TO WAR WITH SOMEONE VERY VERY SERIOUSLY. THIS IS NOT A CHESS GAME.

Posted by john @ 10/06/2006 02:39 PM CST

This Iraq war may be the destiny for losers, for all of us, this Iraq is a terrible history on the stain of mankind's sin. Therefore, let there be volcanoes and earthquakes and typhoon that will ruin Iraq, let mother nature ruin the offspring terrors of Iraq.

Posted by John Kudlom @ 11/08/2006 07:05 AM CST

Suggesting that the US manage the occupation more competently strikes me as too little too late. The problem is that things have gone way too far for the measures Ami suggests to make much difference. Better auditing of US reconstruction aid is not going to stop Sunni and Shia tit for tat killings. Better training of US troops from this point on is unlikely to make the occupation more popular with Iraqis. Even an optimally managed US occupation will continue to provoke resistance.

It is easy enough to point to "mistakes" by the US, but in most cases the option not taken would have presented as many problems. Disbanding the Iraqi army is often cited as a key error. However keeping it intact would have been unacceptable to most Shiites and Kurds and the army would have been riddled with Sunni insurgents and useless as an instrument of policy. The problem is not the incompetence of the occupation, it's the occupation itself.

The solutions which would "fix" the situation are unrealistic for various reasons. Savage repression by the US a la Chechnya would be unacceptable and would stoke up Muslim hatred of the US even further. Massively increasing US troop presence to improve security would be too expensive + politically unacceptable in the US. Getting less hated countries than the US to take over the occupation is a non-starter as there will be no volunteers and no guarantee of greater competence anyway.

Realistically the likely "fixes" are these:- Partition and associated bloodshed. Savage Shi'ite repression to crush the Sunni insurgency. Sunni victory and neo-Ba'athist repression. Somalia-isation of the country until a sufficiently powerful tyrant emerges to knit things together. Or a combination of one or more of the above.

It's difficult to see the US accepting any 'solution' which poses a threat to oil supplies, so my guess is that we will see either partition or some version of the status quo for the foreseeable future, whichever party is in charge of US policy and however unpopular the attrition becomes with US voters.

Posted by Spike @ 11/10/2006 02:45 PM CST

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