Friday, August 10, 2007

Because We've Bought It

By Cernig

Here's some joining of the dots pointing to the next "unforeseen" problem in Iraq which will prevent the neocon ideologues from realizing the turning of the last corner.

First, via Kevin Drum, comes Marc Lynch:
Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are actually working at cross-purposes. Petraeus's military 'successes' and local initiatives come at the expense of the national political track, not in support of it.

...The Anbar Salvation Council and the other 'Awakenings", the "rent-a-shaykh" and "rent-a-fighter" policies, and so forth all take place not just at the local level but outside the institutions of the state. They may improve the local security situation but do not encourage the integration into an Iraqi state which most Sunnis - by all available evidence - still see as monopolized by the Shia and controlled by Iran. The former insurgents fighting alongside the Americans against al-Qaeda don't report to Nuri al-Maliki... they report to David Petraeus. Meanwhile, on the Shia side American forces strike the Sadrists, but don't seem to care much about SCIRI SIIC ISCI penetration of the Iraqi military or security forces - once again suggesting that national state institutions just don't enter into the equation.

Petraeus, Bush, and their defenders argue that the local initiatives might provide the foundations for a national reconciliation down the road. Perhaps. But for now it looks more like the local initiatives, which are providing the temporary 'successes' which will justify continuing the administration's course of action, aren't just not being matched by political progress but are actually undermining the national political process. They are organizing the Sunnis outside of the state rather than fostering integration. And by heightening Sunni military weight and political expectations, these policies likely encouraged the political trainwreck we saw over the last few weeks: Sunni leaders felt emboldened to demand more, while Shia leaders worried about making concessions to a group accumulating military and political power outside their control.
The latter part of Marc's astute analysis leads to the next step in the oncoming SNAFU, which is explained by Fourth Generation Warfare guru William Lind (h/t zenpundit), who notes that Shiite attacks on US forces are up, motivated by a growing Shiite view that the US has changed sectarian sides. He continues:
This is a danger sign that should engage the urgent attention of senior American commanders. If we replace a war against Iraqis Sunnis with a war against the Shiites, we will not only have suffered a serious, self-inflicted operational defeat, we will endanger our whole position in Iraq, since our supply lines mostly run through Shiite country.

I say such a defeat would be self-inflicted because Shiite attacks on Americans in Baghdad seem to be responses to American actions. In dealing with the Shiites, we appear to be doing what spurred the growth of the Sunni insurgency, i.e., raids, air strikes and a "kill or capture" policy directed against local Shiite leaders. Not only does this lead to retaliation, it also fractures Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army as he tries to avoid fighting us. Such fracturing works against, not for, the potential re-creation of an Iraqi state.

A return to practices we know are counter-productive in dealing with Iraq's Shiites raises the question of motive. Are we so bloody stupid that at the same time we seem to have learned something about counter-insurgency against the Sunnis we are making the same old mistakes with the Shiites? Perhaps.
Apparently the Bush administration and its Very Serious People (VSP) enablers are exactly that stupid - and their stupidity appears to originate in an arrogant belief that they have bought and paid for Iraq and will do what they bloody well wish to with it.

Over to Ezra Klein, who quotes from a Ken Pollack article for the Council on Foreign Relations:
We did meet with a number of top Iraqi policymakers over there and we found exactly what you said, which was absolutely no progress at that strategic political level. These are people who know that if there were really free and fair elections, they might not win nearly as many seats as they have under the current prevailing conditions of a failed state and a security vacuum. I came away from the trip believing it may be necessary to have new elections in Iraq and maybe even a new electoral system that actually could produce a government that is more representative of the Iraqi people, with leaders who actually would be much more willing to make compromises.
Yes, this is the Pollack of "that Pollack and O'Hanlon op-ed" fame, the recent shameless shill-job for the Surge.

Ezra notes:
So he's suggesting, essentially, that the Americans unilaterally dissolve the sovereign Iraqi government and demand new elections that would be conducted in some theoretically more proportionate way, and which would be more amenable to compromises that would, in turn, rely on marginalizing the country's most powerful parties and thus angering exactly the groups we need to abide by compromises.
Pollack won't be the first nor the last occupation apologist to suggest this either. Whether they say the US should impose this hopeless do-over by simple force or by political pressure (e.g. threat of force), the end result aimed for is the same. You can be sure that this is the substance of Bush's threat to Maliki yesterday for getting too cozy with Iran too. The logic at work is the always-unstated result of a hegemonic interpretation of the Pottery Barn Rule. In VSP minds, it runs "we broke it, we bought it, we own it - if we own it, we can fix it our way".

Many years ago, during the notorious Highland Clearances, English VSPs opined that they had bought the Scots lock, stock and barrel and would do with them what they will. The same imperialist arrogance is at work here, and it will come back to bite those VSPs on the ass.

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