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2006 October 19 Thursday
Worsening Conditions To Force Iraq Strategy Change

Only desperation can force the Bush Administration to make a major course change in Iraq. Any course change based on the idea that Iraqis aren't all Jeffersonian Democrats who believe in the equality of humans is opposed until it becomes impossible to oppose it. Worsening conditions are bringing partition and withdrawal to the top of the heap for consideraion.

The escalating violence raking Baghdad and other Iraqi cities is pushing that nation's leaders, neighboring Arab countries and U.S. advisers to consider a dramatic change of direction in the conduct of the war.

Leaks from a U.S. task force headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III are contributing to the widespread sense that the Bush administration is preparing for a "course correction" in the coming months.

The options cited most frequently in Washington include the partition of Iraq into three ethnic- or faith-based regions, and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, with some remaining in neighboring countries to deal with major threats.

I like the term "faith-based regions". It ties in nicely with George W. Bush's rhetoric about "faith-based initiatives". Then Iraq isn't a debacle. It is an effort to build faith-based communities.

How about a military coup with US blessing? But how to spin it? Military democracy? Direct action democracy?

Another scenario is being discussed -- and taken seriously in Iraq -- by many of Iraq's leading political players, under which the U.S.-trained army would overthrow struggling Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and replace him with a strongman who would restore order while Washington looks the other way.

Hey, the only man alive who has a demonstrated proven track record as a ruthless maintainer of order in Iraq - a man we have since learned would have loved an alliance with America while he was still in power - is none other than Saddam Hussein. Before some Iraqi court sentences him to death we ought to consider a sequel - Saddam Part II - The American Alliance. He'd have Teheran's mullah's quaking in their boots and as part of a deal to restore him to power I'm sure he'd be happy to pressure Syria into cutting off Iranian supplies to Hezbollah.

Which radical departure from current strategy will be chosen?

Few officials in either party are talking about an immediate pullout of U.S. combat troops. But interest appears to be growing in several broad ideas. One would be some kind of effort to divide the country along regional lines. Another, favored by many Democrats, is a gradual withdrawal of troops over a set period of time. A third would be a dramatic scaling-back of U.S. ambitions in Iraq, giving up on democracy and focusing only on stability.

Many senior Republicans with close ties to the administration also believe that essential to a successful strategy in Iraq are an aggressive new diplomatic initiative to secure a Middle East peace settlement and a new effort to engage Iraq's neighbors, such as Syria and Iran, in helping stabilize the country -- perhaps through an international conference.

This effort to secure a Middle Eastern peace settlement probably refers to Israel. The more the US gets entangled with Arab countries the more pressure the US government will feel to apply pressure to Israel to make concessions to Arabs. For this reason the neocon promotion of the Iraq fiasco has damaged the interests of the one country they most want to protect in the Middle East: Israel.

As of this writing the October death rate of coalition casualties is running at 4 a day which is the highest since the January 2005 rate of 4.1 and the November 2004 rate of 4.7. The latter high was due to fighting in Fallujah.

US Army Major General William Caldwell acknowledged that the big shift of US troops into Baghdad has not halted the rise in violence.

Violence and progress do coexist in Iraq. You can be making progress and have violence. The violence continues against security forces and innocent Iraqis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Traditionally a time of great celebration, it has instead been a period of increased violence, not just this year, but during the past two years, as well. The violence is, indeed, disheartening. In Baghdad alone we've seen a 22-percent increase in attacks during the first three weeks of Ramadan, compared to the three weeks preceding in the preceding Ramadan. And Baghdad Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas, but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence. We are working very closely with the government of Iraq to determine how best to refocus our efforts

Maybe the Muslims will not kill each other as quickly once they have finished their month of celebrating their violent religion.

The US military is overstretched in Iraq. Divisions spend only one year out for every year in country. There's not much room left for increasing the size of the deployed force. Any attempt to shore up forces in one part of the country comes at the expensive of drawing down forces in other parts of the country.

Movement of US troops out of the Sunni Triangle to fight in Baghdad has helped the Sunni insurgents to operate more openly.

Dozens of al Qaeda-linked gunmen took to the streets of Ramadi on Wednesday in a show of force to announce the city was joining an Islamic state comprising Iraq's mostly Sunni Arab provinces, Islamists and witnesses said.

Witnesses in Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province, said gunmen dressed in white marched through the city as mosque loudspeakers broadcast the statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, a Sunni militant group led by al Qaeda in Iraq.

Caldwell's comments made a big splash in the Western media but their real target may have been top officials in the Iraqi government.

Gen Caldwell did not specify how security methods might be refocused, but the unusually grim assessment seems in part intended to put pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take political steps that US officers have long said need to accompany military operations.

Most of the attacks against US forces are made by Shiite militias that are protected and supported by the Iraqi government.

Privately, U.S. officers say Shiite militias -- some affiliated with Iraqi government security forces -- are responsible for most of the attacks against U.S. troops as well as on Sunni civilians. But commanders on the ground often find themselves stymied when going after Shiite militias, especially those affiliated with anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political bloc controls 30 seats in parliament.

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, ordered the release of Sheikh Mazen Saedi, a leading member of al-Sadr's organization, who had been arrested by U.S. troops on suspicion of "illegal activity," Caldwell confirmed Thursday. He did not specify what crimes Saedi was suspected of committing.

We are fighting for a government formed by parties which have militias fighting against us. Is that crazy or what?

Some argue that a solution to the Iraq civil war lies in getting more groups involved in the political process. The idea is to get more factional leaders into negotiations and give them slices of power so that they have a stake in the system. Moqtada al-Sadr has been pulled into negotiations and some of his people have been put into the government..But when al-Sadr responded by trying to restrain his militia parts of the militia splintered off and kept carrying out attacks. The splintering of the militias makes it harder to do negotiations.

In the void forged by the sectarian tensions gripping Baghdad, militias are further splintering into smaller, more radicalized cells, signifying a new and potentially more volatile phase in the struggle for the capital. Iraqis and U.S. officials blame militias for mass kidnappings and slayings, for setting up unauthorized checkpoints and for causing much of the recent carnage. Senior U.S. military and intelligence officials say they have identified at least 23 militias -- some are Sunni, but most are Shiite. Some are paramilitary offshoots of the Mahdi Army or have broken away entirely from Sadr's command structure. Others seem inspired by Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah guerrilla movement.

More splinter groups means more leaders of splinter groups that must be enticed into negotiations and offered power. Given that the splinter groups are less inclined to negotiate and more inclined to kill this strategy of negotiated peace looks doomed to fail. Maybe if we let the civil war scale up to a much higher level some groups would defeat other groups and the number of groups that must be brought to the table to arrange power sharing would shrink.

The US military claims to be reexamining their strategy in Baghdad with an eye toward changing it somehow. But what options do they have? Pull more troops out of other areas of Iraq and shift them to Baghdad? Start killing militia leaders in defiance of Maliki's government? Pull troops out of Baghdad and let nature take its course?

A Shiite town and Sunni town on opposite sides of the Tigris River are duking it out.

The violence around Balad, a Shiite enclave in a largely Sunni region, began Friday with the kidnapping and beheading of 17 Shiite farmworkers from Duluiyah, a predominantly Sunni town. Taysser Musawi, a Shiite cleric in Balad, said Shiite leaders in the town appealed to a Baghdad office of Moqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric, to send militiamen to defend local Shiites and to take revenge. Sadr's political party is a member of a Shiite religious alliance that governs Iraq.

Shiite fighters responded in force, local police said. Witnesses said Shiite fighters began hunting down Sunnis, allegedly setting up checkpoints in the area to stop travelers and demand whether they were Shiite or Sunni.

By Sunday afternoon, 80 bodies were stacked in the morgue of the Balad hospital, the only sizable medical center in the region, physician Kamal al-Haidari said by telephone.

Here once again is my practical suggestion for cutting down the sectarian violence: the US military should help Sunnis move out of predominately Shia areas and vice versa. Get these people away from each other so they can't so easily kill each other. Money spent on moving vans and to construct housing could reduce the scale of civil war violence.

Another alternative: Partial withdrawal. Then in some regions the groups could duke it out and some groups would get defeated and the number of groups might go down. That'd make it easier to negotiate a settlement.

My preferred alternative: Total withdrawal. It'd save the US taxpayers money and save lots of American lives. But total withdrawal requires admission that the Iraq invasion was a total waste and a huge mistake. The need for such an admission pretty much rules out this this option in the foreseeable future.

Lawrence Auster argues we can not persuade Muslims to support a form of democracy that has the characteristics that cause Westerners to support democracy in the first place.

To democratize a Muslim country requires that we persuade the Muslims to agree with democracy. To win the Muslims’ agreement we must to a large extent accede to their wishes. But their wishes include sharia, war against infidels, death to apostates, and much more that precludes anything we might consider a meaningful, pro-Western democracy. Thus our unstinting effort to win Muslims to our democratic ideals (the effort must be unstinting because we’ve convinced ourselves that democratizing Muslims is the ONLY way we can defeat terrorism) means that we end up betraying our democratic ideals and acceding to Islamic ideals.

There is no escape from this reality, for the simple reason that Islam is incompatible with democracy—a fundamental truth we have never acknowledged.

Well, Larry and I have acknowledged the incompatibility of Islam with the West. The Pope sees the truth as well. But like with some other obvious truths to speak or write about the core political characteristics of Islam requires violation of liberal taboos.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 October 19 09:32 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate


Comments
John S Bolton said at October 20, 2006 1:21 AM:

A partition into only three parts is inadequate; and especially so if they're not sovereign.
They need completely sovereign states of Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Kurdistan, plus sovereign urban districts with defense perimeters.
In any case the good of the moslem as such must not be our objective.
Remember Bush was saying failure is not an option... but success would mean that our enemies the moslems, would succeed.
Moslem success means the aggrandizement of the war of religion against the infidel, the rule of atrocity over the beaten-down faithful, and theocracy intruding into every corner of the country.
'Success', then, is not an option compatible with moral decency.
Make that place fail as hard it can be made to fail.

Bob Badour said at October 20, 2006 8:02 AM:

Um, so, we overthrew the Taliban and continue to fight them in Afghanistan to deprive Al Qaida a country to use as a base of operations then we invaded Iraq so we could hand them the governorate of Anbar instead. Nice. Way to go George!

Curious Citizen from Sweden said at October 20, 2006 10:06 AM:

I wonder if you could solve this with some totalitarian high tech. Put a bracelet on the leg of everyone. The bracelet contains gps, microphone and a radio link to a central monitoring station. You are only allowed to move in certain areas and if you take of the bracelet your tribe and family gets punished.

Stephen said at October 21, 2006 1:31 AM:

John and Curious, maybe we could first try apologising for killing them and destroying their country? I know it would be much easier to simply kill a few million souls, or imprison an entire nation in the name of democracy, but you know, sometimes the hard way is the better way.

Curious Citizen from Sweden said at October 21, 2006 11:10 AM:

Stephen: Apologizing is a good way to start. If the latest report about Iraq, in the Lancet magazine, is true the invasion has caused around 650,000 deaths. How do you beg forgiveness for such a thing? Im leaning towards believeing the latest Lancet report, since the methodology looks standard.

I wonder how you stop the bastards from continuing killing now that they have been awakened. It sickening that 50 people tortured to death is not front page news anymore.

I admit that the gps-bracelet was a bit speculative but it seems to me that the first duty of a state is to create order, then justice.

Randall Parker said at October 22, 2006 12:51 PM:

In keeping with my new policy of deleting insults I deleted a post by "Dipstick". Dipstick is invited to repost his comments and make his assertions of facts minus the insults.

Randall Parker said at October 22, 2006 4:34 PM:

Dipstick can't manage to get thru even a re-post without tossing out an insult.

Dipstick, try again. If you can manage to just assert what you believe to be true about Saddam or US policy toward Iraq then I'll leave it. Yes, your insult was directed toward me. But I delete all insults directed at all commenters here. Since few of the insults are directed at me the policy was instituted to prevent insult-fests between various visitors here. But I'm trying to be consistent in application of my rule and so I deleted both your comments.

If you do not have enough self-control to write a comment without calling someone a name then geez, you need to work on your self-control. No, my deleting your comment does not prove the accuracy of your assertions. I didn't delete it because you asserted something about US policy toward Iraq. I do not mind if you make such assertions. I am just trying to make the comments civil. You might not value civility as much as you value other things like saying whatever you think about other people as you post pseudonymously. However, I do value civility under these circumstances and I have the power to delete posts here.

Rob said at October 22, 2006 7:27 PM:

Randall,

Please don't delete that. It's funny. We can all use some levity.

Maybe we should stay in the Kurdish region. If we leave them to the wolves again, our ability to use minorities to fight our future wars is shot. I am sure we will import millions upon millions of Kurds though. I hope Kurdish women are hot.

On the other hand, Turkey is a plausible goal for the Arab states: stable, the military enforces secularism, they don't invade other countries. Sure, they aren't Arabs but they are Muslims.


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