First I apologize for the lack of pictures but Blogger is being a dick about uploading pics. Any fellow bloggers with helpful ideas are encouraged to lend a hand in the comments section!)
Now we have a lame-duck President, a Democratic Congress, a new SecDef and a ragingly out-of-control Iraq, what do I think the future looks like? And, given all the above, what is our prospect for getting a relatively “successful” result out of Iraq the short term?
Definition of “relatively successful”: An Iraq that is generally at peace within, and not a threat to its’ neighbors, and maintains a relatively positive, or at least neutral, attitude towards the U.S.
Well, first, it’s important to remember two main things:
1. The invasion was always about establishing a geopolitical client in the Gulf. We have had to listen to the nauseating claptrap about "WMD" and "central front against terrorism" and "midwifing democracy" because we do not have anyone in power with the honesty to proclaim that we are doing what Great Powers always do...looking out for their own far-flung interests...and;
2. Their own boneheaded preconceptions have collided with the unsavory Iraqi reality and the people who ginned up this was (Dickie Perle, Cheney and the PNAC crowd) have no clue where to go from here. Part of this is simply the tactical facts on the ground. Over the long run we need to have a compliant - or at least supine - Iraqi populace. I can't see how we can turn Camp Victory and FOB Samwise (or whatever) into power projection points of we have to devote 20-40% of our time and troop strength into force protection. I think the plan was always to:
- invade and install a client head of state
- let the client army suppress resistance
- withdraw to isolated bases and continue the game against Iran, the regional power.
By 1980s Cheneyite lights, it should have worked. We used to do tons of this stuff in places from Iran (poor Mossadegh, nobody remembers you anymore) to Honduras. Plus we knew - we thought we knew - that the Iraqis were hatin' them some Iranians after the First Gulf War and were prepared to a) love the Yankee liberators and b) ignore any moves we put on Iran from their territory.
Well! Turns out that the Iraqis wanted, not liberty-lovin' American occupiers but their own power players, whether Kurdish, Sunni or Shia. Turns out that the Shia, in turn, weren't so sanguine about Iran bashing after all.
So now we are now caught on a cleft stick of our own making. Our forces in AO Iraq are fighting the war we've told them we're fighting, when in fact we're fighting for something rather different. And our people are supporting (or, increasingly, NOT supporting...) a war in Iraq for reasons very different than the geopolitical reasons its being fought.
Any chance the two problems are related?
From Clausewitz' vom Krieg we are instructed pretty clearly that the objectives of war and the conduct of war need to roughly align. The further one is from the other the more difficult it is to obtain the desired political end state from the military means. How much more so in a "democracy", where if you tell the electorate you mean to do one thing while actually working for something else...and your cover gets blown...oh. dear. me.
So the only real question at this point is, what can we do now?
Can we achieve the publicly stated goals we told the world and our own people we started this war for?
Yes...and no. Overthrow Saddam? Check. Remove WMDs? Check (okay, well there weren't any, really, other than a few old Sarin projos, but never mind) Fight Terrorism? Check or Hold...mmmmm not so much Check as Hold. (Turns out that most of our enemies are locals wanting to run off the foreigner).
So - 2 out of 3. Enough for me to declare victory and start packing.
Establish a US/Israel-loving, free-market-having, Western values embracin' client state?
No. But, as I’d pointed out, this was NEVER the actual reason for invasion. We might eventually establish order of a rank, charnel sort if we could embrace our inner Roman, pick a Shia client and help them slaughter their enemies in a positively biblical fashion (i.e. down to the farm animals). We would, of course and deservedly so, become global pariahs for this, hated and feared by all decent sentient beings (which means that the Powerline and LGF crowd have been all over this option - it's hideous and inhuman but not unthinkable). But Iraq-as-Jeffersonian-democracy ain't gonna happen, not for the next hundred years at least.
I AM getting a laugh out of the talk circulating around about how we're gonna get the Iraqi factions, Syria and Iran around a table and "work out a political solution". By offering them, what? A weekend at the Luxor with Angeline Jolie? Free passes to Disney World? What the hell can we offer the factions that will give them what they want - which is, as far as I can tell, a military victory?
Plus, how do we offer this in a way that works for all the factions? Give the Sunnis what they want, you have to get the Shia to compromise. Why should they? They don't seem to want compromise, they want the win they feel they got at the polls. Same with the Kurds. How about the Turkmen in Kirkuk? Marsh Arabs? How do you get the Sadrists to give up a unified Iraq or the Kurds to abandon regional seperatism? How do you convince Iran to tell their Iraqi allies to give the U.S. a free hand when they suspect that a "free hand" means a possible attack in Iran?
I'm skeptical, because I have a deep and abiding faith in the boneheaded intransigence of both the average Iraqi gunsel and the average neoconservative thug. AND for this to work you're asking for cooperation from some entities that this Administration has spend six years flipping off: Iran, Turkey, Syria...
I'm willing to try and hope for a solution but I wish I was more optimistic about the matter of cleaning up our own government. I will be anxiously waiting the arrival of the Baker report - AND to see if the Cheneyites are willing to move on its ideas...
I'd still say that for this to work we could sure use a couple of other things: a SecState smarter and more flexible than Condi, and someone - anyone - on the Iraqi side who can function as their Nelson Mandela, to help the process along and help it make sense to the Iraqi-in-the-street. But I'm hoping for the possible, not the miraculous...
Next: A story from the Chief's sordid past