Are we losing control of Iraq?
see "Gunmen Target Shiite Muslims, Kill 22, Injure Hundreds" (LA Times, 8/20/06)
Count me among the growing camp that sees Iraq sliding off the edge into civil war or some other condition in which it will not make sense to keep American troops.
When the Shi'ite pilgrimage is targeted by snipers, "killing at least 22 and leaving hundreds injured", and that is called "an extraordinary success", one wonders what failure might look like.
I guess it looks like last year's event where 1,000 people died in a Who concert-style stampede following rumors of a suicide bomber.
Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican Party, spoke last week about the choice not being between "stay the course" and "cut and run" but between "adapt to succeed" and "cut and run". The problem is that "adapt to succeed" probably requires sending an additional 100,000 troops to Iraq, something we probably couldn't do even if the country had the political will to do so. Given that Mehlman is likely right that "stay the course" is not a real option, it is becoming more and more likely that we will find a way to leave it to the Iraqis.
Of course the Iraqis are incapable of taking care of their country. Iraq is barely a real country anyway. Splitting it into three separate countries, i.e. primarily Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish, would seem to have long run possibilities, there will be a serious economic problem because the Sunnis have no oil or other significant revenue source.
This has been a factor throughout, with the Sunnis using the insurgency to try to put political pressure on the rest of the country. And even though it was probably the Sunnis who gave up Zarqawi, the insurgency is like a patient who was taken off the ventilator and somehow starts breathing on his own.
Another increasingly destabilizing force is Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, a violent Shi'ite militia based in the slums around Baghdad. I can imagine al-Sadr lying awake at night wondering how he can become Iraq's version of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.
Nasrallah has just stuck his thumb in the eye of the Middle East's best military. Despite George Bush's statements, the recent short war was a clear victory for Hezbollah and Iran. It demonstrated Iran's ability to fund and supply a proxy militia within a sovereign state and win. Anyone who thinks Sadr doesn't want the same job in Iraq is fooling himself. And anyone who thinks Iran wouldn't love just that situation is also setting himself up for serious disappointment...or death.
Combining all these intensifying destabilizing forces, the resurgent insurgency, the emboldened Shi'ites, the under-trained army and the traitorous police (massively infiltrated by militias), it is hard to see how we will be able to get a handle on the situation.
Americans, including Republicans, will lose faith in this effort with increasing speed and GOP politicians will start campaigning on how they will change our plan for Iraq.
While the wacky left's anti-war position a year ago was based on nothing but personal hatred for President Bush and a general opposition to any war in which we have a security interest, things are different today. Iraq is not Vietnam, but it could become that in terms of domestic political effect. Republicans are going to have a very difficult time going into the November election. They will have to start campaigning against the war and President Bush, but have to do it without looking like Democrats. In an environment this bad for Republicans, it's critical that the GOP maintain its ability to show a clear difference between themselves and Democrats. That makes it all the more important that Republicans get back to believing in fiscal responsibility...but I don't have great faith that they will.
In the meantime, I am more pessimistic about Iraq than ever. It is turning into a frightening large parallel to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in which the low-tech islamofascists wait out the high-tech military of a modern democracy, beating down the democratic population through slow but steady attacks on soldiers, civilians, towns, and anything else they can reach.
While I don't believe in 20/20 hindsight, and I still believe that the war in Iraq was initially necessary, it is becoming more and more clear that our current strategy is failing, that we do not have the troops to implement a massive force solution, and that we are spending a tremendous amount of money (which could be spent to modernize our military against the rising threats of China, Iran, and North Korea.) With every passing day, the idea of pulling out of Iraq, or at least most of it, and just letting them kill each other, is becoming more appealing. Maybe we should guard the oil infrastructure and otherwise get out of the way. At some point, protecting one insane Muslim from another is not worth risking an American life.
If we do back off from Iraq, we must make it very clear to that entire region that any place we see as a threat to us or Israel will be treated exceptionally harshly. If we have to turn part of the Middle East into glass, so be it.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Rossputin on 08/22/06 at 03:38:01 am . Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0.|