It seems like everyone has an opinion about "What to do about Iraq".
This has been an extremely odd sort of war. It is a red-line issue between lefties like me and righties. My friend Tiger, who is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, has even lectured me about fighting guerilla war. Tiger's total military experience consists of watching "Band of Brothers", mind you. He's a lovely man. Like everyone involved in this debate, he becomes an instant military expert when the subject of Iraq comes up.
Me, too, of course.
My take? Well, IMO The real problem now (as opposed to the real problem up until a year ago, which was that the people trying to "run" Iraq - the CPA - were primarily party hacks chosen for their ideological purity and as fucked up as a football bat as far as actually performing as a civil government) is that the U.S. is neither in a geopolitical position to "win", or, in fact, even to determine the conditions of what a "win" is. The Iraqis are.
They had a nice little election, remember all those purple fingers?
The problem that flows from this is that we are now ostensibly "guests" of a sovereign nation. One, moreover, that is getting heartily sick of getting shot over by American convoys and killed at American checkpoints and raped by American servicemen. This can hardly be considered a shock. Think of how you would feel if your little piece of America was suddenly overrun by a bunch of surly Shiite militiamen who threw up checkpoints at random locations, shouted at you in pidgen English and shot you if you misunderstood. Or their local allies raided your block and hauled off all the military age men, who, quelle suprise, turned up in a trash heap in a vacant lot with a nine millimeter trepanning job.
A nation that we are barely supporting, much less "reconstructing". Um, yeah, that sideshow stopped playing over a year ago. Haji and his unemployed friends are back to hanging on the corner hoping someone will IED those assholes from the 502nd PIR...
A "country" currently "governed" by a bunch of folks whose total experience in running a democracy came from watching old VHS tapes of Mel Gibson's "The Patriot" and the musical "1776" (the part where Mrs. Jefferson sings about getting it on with the Sage of Monticello, especially).
Folks who were held in a single nation by a succession of strongmen, and who, in many respects, lack compelling reasons to cling together:
- the Kurds want what they've always wanted, a nation of their own
- the Sunnis want the whole nut roll back, or at least a bigger share of the Iraqi pie than their demographics would recommend, and
- the Shiites figure that hey, one Iraqi, one vote, right, and there are more of them than anyone else, so it's their game, lock, stock and two smoking barrels.
Anyone figures out how to put these three pit bulls back into the sack and get a working sled dog team wins the Nobel Peace Prize and, no, I don't think that Dubya, McCain, Hillary and Ralph Nader together have that kind of intellectual wattage. The three main groups, plus all the other factions, plus the criminal gangs (lots of them in the mixer, too) are all working under the middle eastern principle - power to my group is power to me. A victory for my faction is a victory for me. And a defeat for my faction is defeat, disaster, destruction and death for me.
Right now the military strength of our Army and Marines is irrelevant to the Iraqis, except as dupes they can con into killing their factional enemies. Our supposed objectives of "democracy" are irrelevant to their goals of increasing their factional power.
We cannot maintain an occupation in this mess, other than by joining a faction (probably the Shiites) and helping them supress their enemies. And our hold on the Shiites fades as we clearly show we have little largesse to give and tilt towards the Sunnis to try and pacify Anbar province. Oh, yes, and make other dumbass geopolitical errors like allow our Israeli ally to paste Lebanese Shiites with CBUs. Sweeeeet. That's sticking your head so far up your backside you can see out through your molars.
We might "win" if we did this in such a draconic way that we made our name a synonym for atrocity, a sort-of 21st Century Attila. I doubt we have the political will for that. I hope we don't.
In short, we have completely screwed the dog through a "perfect storm" combination of pride, sloth, greed and wrath. The only deadly sin we missed was lust (oh, sorry, the boys from the Nickel Oh Deuce caught that one...).
Machiavelli and Metternich together would have a problem putting the Iraqi-Dumpty together. That was probably the most cogent reason I heard in the run-up to war for NOT whacking Saddam. It was because Saddam was Saddam not because he was Saddam, but because Iraq was Iraq. We've painted ourselves into this "Muslim democracy" corner and any effort now to prop up a strongman shoots our national credibility dead square in the ass.
Like I said: we're just screwed. The hard light of dawn is ramming through the tacky motel curtains, our head is pounding and our mouth feels like a cat has littered in it. As we grope and stumble to the musty-smelling toilet we can't quite remember how we got here, or why, but the faint lipstick traces on some pretty startling parts of our anatomy are pretty much a giveaway of what happened last night. And the sick feeling in our stomach is more than just last nights' bourbon, it has a lot to do with the growing horrific realization that our wallet and keys are nowhere to be found, our wife has probably already reported us missing and the meeting we were supposed to make at 8:30 is probably a wash, since the plastic clock-radio is blinking "11:00" in unforgiving red numbers. As we sink down on the nasty, crumpled sheets, head in hands, we are overwhelmed by two single, terrifying thoughts:
"Ohmigod what the hell can I do now..?"
"I am SO fucked!"