Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Neener neener

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.

9 comments:

Charles Gittings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Gittings said...

Heh. They only look naive and clueless becasue they are. Iraq remains what it was from the start: a total waste of time, energy, resources, and lives.

And one of the most disgraceful crimes in the history of the United States.

FDChief said...

Hey, Charles.

You've got a high standard, my man. I'd argue that we still have a way to go to match the decades-long decimation of the Native Americans, the cynical and bullying Mexican War, domestic atrocities like slavery, lynching and Jim Crow, and the concentration camps and water cures of the Philippine "Insurrection". Oh, and New Coke, too.

I agree that Iraq is a nasty bit of criminal foreign adventurism, but why so high up in the Rogue's Gallery?

Ael said...

You know what annoys me the most?

The invasion of Iraq really screwed up the international system of law that was the work of the last 60 years.

That "my way or the highway" unilateral action really messed up our international reflexes.
Now, when something like Georgia happens, we all revert back to our 19th century habits of "my alliance is bigger than yours" posturing.

Anyone who looks at the history of the 20th century should realize just how scary-dangerous those habits are.

Charles Gittings said...

Well slavery and colonialism were not exactly unique to the United States, any more than organized crime is. Neither is aggression or tyranny, but this isn't the 18th or 19th Century, and in the 20th we fought three world wars (two hot, one cold). Even if we set aside the malicious depravity involved, it would be impossible for me excuse the dishonesty, political subversion, and obstinate stupidity -- this shit is dangerous, and these degenerate goons are a greater threat to the safety of the US than Al Qaeda is. They not only aren't winning their idiotic war on everything and nothing, they're fighting a no-win proposition and making the situation worse.

These people are demented new-age Nazis, and they are plantings seeds that take an historical average of @ 20 years to germinate. This in world where bows and muskets have given way to AK-47s, IEDs, and computers, with nukes and bio-weapons on the horizon.

They don't know what the fuck they are doing. It's like watching a six-year-old trying to do surgery on the family cat with a boy scout knife, only it's not the family cat, it's the lives of everyone on the planet.

What they do know is that it's their only chance to go on suckering people into voting for them. Set aside the fact that they are liars, torturers, murders, and subversives and what's left is that they are fucking fools -- and this is now, not then. There's an old chess maxim "the threat is stronger than the execution". That's because past misdeeds and disasters have already inflicted what damage they could, but the ones that haven't happened yet can and will kick your ass -- and unanswered threats tend to multiply.

Worse doesn't even matter; bad enough is bad enough.

Publius said...

Well, I'd put slavery at the top of the list, but I do have to say that Charles and ael kind of make compelling points for bumping Iraq up that list.

Charles is absolutely correct about the nature of the people we've placed in high office and ael makes a super good point in noting the ramifications for international law and relations, and by tying Russia/Georgia into the equation.

One can make a good case for putting Iraq and the government that did it at the top of the heap if for no other reason than that the U.S., driving force behind the United Nations, has put a fork in that body, which many once naively believed might do some good for mankind.

FDChief said...

All good points, gentlemen. The most convincing, oddly enough, is Charles' remark about how this is the 21st Century and not the 18th and 19th. Thing is, we've had the advantage of looking at the modern messes that are most post-colonial states. They're not pretty, so we don't have the Victorian's excuse of ignorance of what decades of foreign rule does to a people and their politics and culture...

I'm less exercised about the UN than you are, Publius, I think because it's been such a punching bag for most of my life. My contempt for the Bushies is more for their hypocrisy; happy enough to use the UN to fig-leaf their Iraq adventure but ignoring and denegrating it when it isn't useful to them.

I have to say, though, that we may be giving these guys too much credit identifying them with Hitler and his gang. The Nazis, while vile, had a plan beyond "Gimmeeee..." These guys don't, or at least none I can see. They appear to me more in the great Republican tradition of corrupt, oportunistic slimebags like Bill McKinley in the P.I. or Jim Polk over Mexico. We may be seeing them as bigger bandits just because they're OUR bandits. I'll bet that Dubya gets dumped in history's crapper along with the other vicious nonentities like McKinley, Harding, Buchanan and Franklin Pierce; a useless hairbag whose existence was just an excuse for incompetence, greed and brutality

sheerahkahn said...

I have to add in that even though the irony of telling Russia they can't go invading a sovereign nation seems lost to the current denizens at the White House, and I just cannot stop thinking that Putin is laughing his ass off...I'm surprised in fact that Putin doesn't run a Daily Show extravaganza of Bush quotes, with past speeches, and then deliver the punch line, "I'm sorry Comrade Bush, but your actions are speaking louder than your words...what was that last thing you just said?"
No, we're hosed, and Russia is laughing its ass off, and I suspect China is getting a real chuckle out of it as well.
When your enemies start cheering on your right to go rough shod over a country that didn't do anything, that would be a good time to stop and think: "Why are they agreeing with me?"

Well, done is done, and we need to clean up our own yard before we go trying to clean up our neighbors...and let the answering machine screen Georgia's calls.

rangeragainstwar said...

FDChief, i fall into the Badger camp since i will never accept the legitimacy of the PWOT. Good cannot result from a illegal war effort.
As for your cmts on Dr.i i'd like to extend that a trifle.-imho there is a consistent company level view of reality expressed in the abu m writing. This is why i stay away- I will not stand in the trees pulling my pud.
There is a lacking of the long view- imho.I will talk tactics but that will not resolve or win this war. In fact what in the hell would we win IF WE WIN?