greg (grysar) wrote,

Quick notes on why I've now given up on Iraq

I was hopeful after we got Al Zarqawi. The Prime Minister made some good moves and we were pushing for a treaty and making a big push on Baghdad Security. Well, it's months later, Baghdad isn't secure and we're now considering trenches to keep it safe. Trouble is that may prevent violence by outsider, but Badhdad's a diverse city so sectarian strife can be totally internal.

Defenders of the war regularly claim that the Iraqis want us there. According to the Post, recent polling strongly indicates that, aside from the Kurds, they don't:

Sudarsan Raghavan, a Washington Post reporter, gives his view of the discrepency in a chat:
ure, I've spoken to many Iraqis who no doubt want the U.S. troops toleave. They usually give two main reasons: 1) they don't want to seetheir nation occupied, and 2) they blame the U.S. occupation for theongoing sectarian chaos, the lack of social services like electricityand health care. the optimism they felt after the invasion has faded.Yet when I speak with Sunnis and Shiites in extremely violent Baghdadneighborhoods they often tell me that they want American troops tosecure their streets and not leave. They don't trust the Iraqi security forces to protect them. So like everything else in Iraq, the answer to your question is complex, and cannot easily be defined through polls.
The trouble is isolated communities of support are not enough to run a successful counter-insurgency effort. Obviously we want as many such pockets of support as possible, and all the better when we get them. More to the point, that doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of non-Kurdish Iraqis don't want us there. It's classically imperalistic and huburistic occupy another country out of a moral burden that both the key parties would prefer you not exercise. I still believe in humanitarian intervention but the Bosnains muslims, the Kosavars, the Tutsis, and the displaced people of Darfur emphatically wanted our help. This still holds true for the Kurds, but the Kurds aren't the real problem here. Withdrawing to Kurdistan is a reasonable option and I'm perfectly happy to work with them.

So, having given up, I'm now forced to pick which option I think is least bad. I'd favor promising no long-term bases, largely removing ourselves from the civil war (perhaps to Kurdistan or neighboring nations other than Saudi Arabia), and pursuing a more limited mission. The more limited mission I'd support would have three objectives:
  1. Prevent a genocide by protecting refugees. The sectarian stife will probably lead to some level of ethnic cleansing. This is particularly likely in the case of a partition. We should protect any group that wants our help in getting to safety. I don't know the best way to implement this, there's probably a lot of lessons to learn from Bosnia and the partition of India. This will not be pretty, but even in a reduced roll, we have enough firepower to protect populations that aren't trying to shoot us. If it gets bad enough that one of the populations, probably the Sunnis, want an occupation again then it might be worth doing. But only if we can get a treaty that gets us a large base of support.
  2. Prevent an Al Qaeda sub-state. While many Sunni's don't like us, but many of them don't like Al Qaeda either. With the occupation factor mitigated, resolving this one isn't that hard.
  3. Prevent a regional war. Regional actors will meddle, but controlling borders is easier than widespread occupation. We can't prevent some support and fighters being smuggled in. We can prevent conventional forces from joining the fight. Doing this right requires careful diplomacy with neighboring states. We need to get as many as possible on board and to at least understand the positions of those not cooperating.

The details are tricky. This wouldn't be an immediate withdrawal and would be coordinated with the Iraqi parliament and regional states. I'd actually favor a referendum on whether the Iraqis would prefer we just stay in our current capacity.

If Bush pulled a Nixon going to China and completely embraced counter-insurgency doctrine, fired Rumsfeld, fired generals that have performed badly, and retakes the moral highground, than I think we could still win it. However, I don't think this particular Nixon will even go to Chinatown. He's still going to be president for the next two years and two more years of the status quo is not acceptable.
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