Saturday, September 02, 2006

Domino Theory, Reloaded

The Pentagon has issued a gloomy report on Iraq's future:
have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a "vocal minority" of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq.

Death squads targeting mainly Iraqi civilians are a growing problem, heightening the risk of civil war, the report said.

"Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife," the report said, adding that the Sunni-led insurgency "remains potent and viable" even as it is overshadowed by the sect-on-sect killing.

"Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq, specifically in and around Baghdad, and concern about civil war within the Iraqi civilian population has increased in recent months," the report said. It is the latest in a series of quarterly reports required by Congress to assess economic, political and security progress.
And the Busheviks are getting gloomy too, according to David Sanger, the well-connected NY Times reporter (but how I wish that the usual "anonymous sources" had the guts to stand up and be recognised):
“The problem with stressing the benefits of democracy is that they take a long time to mature, and it’s no sure bet that it will ever happen,” said a senior official who has participated in formation of the administration’s message since the war’s start. “The consequences of failure, though, are right in your face.”

No one has been more willing to set out the new domino theory than the administration’s chief hawk, Mr. Cheney. In private meetings with foreign visitors and members of Congress, according to several participants in those sessions, he raises the prospect that if America fails in Iraq, Saudi Arabia will be the next target and then maybe Pakistan — which, he notes, has a good-sized nuclear arsenal. No one would benefit more from an American withdrawal, he continues, than the Iranians.

For Mr. Cheney, this is a major rhetorical reversal. In the prelude to the war, he argued that ousting Saddam Hussein would usher in a new era of stability in the Middle East.

Missing from Mr. Bush’s latest speeches, at least so far, is detail about the progress of his previous plan, the “Strategy for Victory” of November, billed as the product of a review and rethinking of what had worked and what had failed.

One of its most notable features was Mr. Bush’s willingness to acknowledge past errors, from failing to anticipate the rise of the insurgency to focusing the early reconstruction effort on big infrastructure projects, which will take years to deliver benefits to the Iraqi people, if they are completed at all.

The Pentagon’s latest report to Congress about progress on that strategy painted a mixed but largely grim picture, especially about the rise of sectarian violence and the failed effort to create an effective Iraqi police force. So why not announce a new change of strategy? A senior official said this week that the president could only talk about a change of strategy so many times, without looking as if he is constantly casting about for solutions.
Which is exactly what he is doing - frantically hoping for a way out of the corner he has painted the world into.

The Iraqi domino didn't need to be toppled in the first place - and once it had been it could have been stood up again by a policy that stressed hearts-and-minds rather than bombing every brown person into oblivion. Now it has fallen for good and the Busheviks who pushed it over can only hope that, like previous warnings over Vietnam which failed to materialize, the dominos will fail to fall when the final ignoble exit from Iraq comes around.

As long as the Bush administration and their think-tanks of provably-failed neocons are steering the effort, however, the dominos are almost certain to fall this time around. They simply don't have the imagination, guts or integrity to change strategies so completely and pursue a "progressive realist" course in other countries while withdrawing from Iraq in any way that makes sense. Afghanistan, where the war on terror was a good idea, has already fallen in its turn because it has been a victim of the same mismanagement as Iraq - all that remains is the admission of that fall.

Remarkably, Dick Cheney will go down in the history books as having been intimately involved in both of America's greatest military debacles - Vietnam and Iraq. Now that's a heck of a job, George!

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