Nasty little argument brewing between "Badger" over at missing links and "Dr. iRack" over at abu muqawama over the coming ratissage that the Malikists are going to drop down on our ex-Sunni-muj, ex-Concerned-Local-Citizens current-"Sons-of-Iraq", the best proxies that our money has bought over in the post-Ottoman snakepit called Iraq.While the name-calling is silly (stop it, you two!) the disagreement seems to point up the difference between the outlook of very different groups of non-Middle-easterners as they look over our current adventure in southcentral Asia.
Dr. iRack, and many of the posters at abu muqawama, have always seemed to me to look so hard at the trees that they miss the forest. The focus at AM seems to be tightly locked, not on geopolitics or grand strategy (although there is some) but local strategy and tactics. The arguments there often seem to me to center around whether W Beach was a better place to land than V Beach rather than what the point of investing a Turkish peninsula might be. AM always seems to me to circle back to "us" (i.e. The West) when talking about Iraq in the same way that NBC is always tightly centered around the fifth-place American shotputter rather than the Kazakhs and Byelorussians that medalled. The Muqawamis seem to be, in general, a little sad and a little mad that our Man in Baghdad is going to go after our very bestest best Sunni pals.
Badger, on the other hand, seems to start from the position that the U.S. is the problem, and as such can never be part of the solution. Or, at least, can't be part of the solution so long as its geopolitical objectives are both unacknowledged and hegemonic. His general take on this issue seems to be that we fucked up both strategically and tactically and we're about to get ours. Too bad, so sad. Smile, Uncle Sammy, and get used to it.So who's right?
Both, I think, and neither.
We should never have bankrolled the "Sons of Iraq" (silly name, but WTF...)
or have placed ourselves in the position to need to buy off our political rivals in order to preserve domestic political support for a neocolonial enterprise that we can't sell on its own merits in the first place. Period.
At this point, we need to either admit that we're going colonial, or we need to start openly preparing to go home. We can't have it both ways forever, and "forever" is coming remarkably close.
Divide and rule is a classic and lovely old colonial strategy. We divided some of the Sunni muj from their less reasonable/less buyable salafi pals and used them to mop up our enemies AND drop our casualty count. This was good for the folks who want our people to stay in the Iraqi "central position" for generations; for those of us who think this is a grand geopolitical fuckup, this was an occasion of buying today's success with tomorrow's failure, and it looks like our line of credit may be running out.Maliki, much as I disrespect the man and his kleptocratic siderunners, is doing what is entirely expected and rational for any middle eastern potentate: he's positioning himself to defenestrate potential rivals and present enemies. To the extent that we should be doing anything, we should be deciding which wogs our viceroy and military pasha (i.e. the CINC of MNF-I) is going to back, and then use them to exterminate their enemies. If we haven't figured out that this is how the world works outside of Lyons, Bonn and Silver Spring, Maryland then we have spent the last eight years standing around southwest Asia with our thumb up our ass and our brain in neutral.
We seem to think that if we just shimmy a little here and wriggle a little there we can figure out a kinder, gentler way to occupy and control a foreign land.
There may be such a way but if there is I can't see it.
The lessons of the European empires are that if you want to directly control the politics of a foreign land you can bribe them (by buying them or their leaders) or you can force them (by threats or use of actual violence) but talking nice to them only works if their interest in your interests is as great or greater than their interest in their own.
In this case, the Malikists appear to be concluding that while Sunni Iraq may be vital to U.S. security interests, our interests don't coincide with theirs. Their increasingly useful militia (the IA/IP) gives us less leverage to threaten and our parsimonious "reconstruction" has never given us a real ability to bribe. So, guess what? We get the finger and the "Sons of Iraq" get the shaft.
If we're smart, we'll buy a couple of leaders on both sides, and when the dust clears we'll have a few remaining proxies to do our dirty business. If we were REALLY smart, we'd have done this about three years ago, and would be back doing what smart Great Powers do, which is using a judicious mixture of force, bribery, persuasion and dead-of-night-skulduggery to get their allies and proxies to get their work done in peripheral theatres like Iraq. But then, if we were REALLY smart, why would a clueless frat boy and his greedy, foolish cronies be running our country.
No, we're still fucked. But to piss and moan about this? Waste of time. Makes us look naive and clueless. We should smile and accept the fact that we're getting schooled in 21st Century colonialism: the pleasure is transient, the position ridiculous and the expense damnable.