Friday, August 13, 2004

Is Iraq a lost cause?

Fred Kaplan has an interesting piece over at Slate today, which argues something which I'm starting to hear more and more of (and for the record, something I stated would happen two years ago, when all this mess started) - that there may be no way to 'win' in Iraq. That the best we can hope for, as he puts it:
is an Iraq that doesn't blow up and take the region with it. The dismaying, frightening thing is how imponderably difficult it will be simply to avoid catastrophe.
Kaplan points out that, despite the handover of Iraqi "soverignty" at the end of June, American combat deaths increased in July and (the way things are headed) are likely to increase again over the course of August. The news media has quieted down on Iraq, focused more intently on the Democratic convention in Boston, the 9/11 Commission's report, and other side issues - but the fact is that Iraq is most certainly not getting better. Allawi, our hand picked leader, doesn't seem to have any real control or authority over his own people - particularly the Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north. Moreover, the American military is stuck between a rock and a hardplace in locales like Najaf and Sadr City (in Baghdad), where we could easily destroy the local militias militarily and tactically, but only at the risk of inflaming the general population against us.

Kaplan points out, as I think a majority of Americans have discovered on their own, that El Presidente has no new 'ideas' on Iraq - either to eliminate the insurgency, or to secure future stability. Kerry's plan, he also contends, is a nice idea...but may be a pipe dream since what country would want to send its troops into a mess like Iraq. No matter how much repair Kerry is able to to do with our European allies, the odds are long at a real commitment to significant troop deployments. Kaplan also makes an excellent point regarding US leadership of any military force in Iraq:
The other key would be to turn over the occupation, including its military command, to an outside entity: NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, the Arab League—anything, as long as the general in charge is not an American. This would be a particularly difficult step. In all other multilateral peacekeeping operations involving U.S. troops, the military component has been kept under U.S. command. Yet the undisputable fact is that no outsider will send troops to Iraq if the United States remains in charge there.
And therin is a sticky point - because no President (or person who wants to be president) can advocate that. The very idea goes against our fragile American ego and would be a morale blow just short of having to pull out in disgrace. Forget about whether or not 'the rest of the world does it,' we're Americans! I can just hear the "end times" crazies going ballistic about an American force under UN command. No...probably not a workable plan.

I'll say it again. Probably the only way to get a stable Iraq will be to impose a sort of dictatorship, led by a military strongman (or, if not impose, allow such a government to slowly take over), with some sort of rubber-stamp parliament or congress with little real power - much like what you see in Syria, or Iran under the Shah. Trouble is, this wouldn't be a democracy. I just don't know if you will ever get a stable democracy in that country. But I can see a day, not too far in the future, when we will be forced to start asking the hard questions in Iraq...such as, what is the minimum acceptible "exit strategy."


At 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And all the supporters of the Prez keep wondering *why* the non-supporters keep making comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam.

Why all the surprise and wonderment? I can think of two possibilities.

Either they know in their heart of hearts that Iraq is just as much a lost cause as Vietnam ever was, and simply aren't willing to admit it (can't admit that the U.S. could make such a galling mistake twice) so they continue with the Lame Excuse Parade (such as "That was 30 years ago!" -- how does that kill the relevance? They never heard the phrase about those who fail to learn their history?) or...

...Or they honestly don't know any better. Yes, I am questioning the IQ of people who can't see a connection between the two wars. (It's probably the exact same demographic from whence came the 30% of Americans who, in a survey done 6 months ago, believed that Iraq had something to do with 9/11.) There is no longer any excuse for the charming but dangerously outdated notion that the President can do no wrong...or that, alternatively, what he does may only *look* wrong on the outside, but is always right for internal reasons that he cannot share. Cheney has proven the lies that can be built behind this screen of accountability, and GWB should be held just as criminally guilty (even if he has no Halliburton annuities) because he picked the Veep and, like any good military commander, remains just as culpable for the Veep's actions. The leaders of our country (and the leaders of our largest and most financially insolvent corporations!) cannot be allowed to get away with "but we didn't know what was *really* going on" as an excuse.

The second reason is more deadly than the first. I'd rather have people supporting Bush because they're too proud to swallow their mistakes, than people supporting Bush because they're too dumb to know any better. GET OUT OF THE BOTTOM 30% OF THE I.Q. SCALE! Get informed from more than one media source -- it's the Information Age! Cheez, what was all that complaining about the media-imposed "total blackout" over in-depth (truthful) news about Vietnam? Sure, there's no complaints about that now, because of the net...but are these supporters of Bush *still* not using the free info feeds? Who can deny the parallels between the wars?



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