Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Iraq again

Two pieces on Iraq that readers might want to think about. The first is from Global Guerillas and the second from Bill Roggio. First, Global Guerrillas:

Iraq is now in full failure and as a result, the assumption that the US will be able to continue with its partial efforts at urban pacification has become dangerously wrong.

The reasons should be obvious. US forces are now surrounded by a sea of militias and insurgents. Within Baghdad itself, where the current pacification effort is focused, US troops are badly outnumbered in extremely difficult urban terrain. Worse yet, the opposition is growing in numbers, sophistication, and aggressiveness at a rate more rapid than the static number of US troops can build up the Iraqi military. It is now only a matter of time before either a misstep or a calculated event pushes the countryside into full scale warfare.

In this near term conflict, we are likely to see a repeat of the lightly manned defensive hedgehog used successfully by Hezbollah against Israel (that lesson was not lost on this war's open source participants). If placed along critical US military supply routes or immediately outside US mega-bases, and augmented by informational superiority (a combination of better local intelligence and advanced signals intercepts), these defensive tactics would extract a heavy toll on US troops (even as the US wins a tactical victory). Further, if repeatably successful, these efforts will force the US to forgo all efforts at offensive pacification operations in favor of basic force protection. From that point on, the timer will be on until a US forward base is overrun (when it finally goes off, we will be cooked).

Next, we have Bill Roggio:

While the news from western Iraq has focused on the partial leaking of a Marine intelligence report purportedly focusing on the inaccurate reports of the 'loss of Anbar province',' a significant political development has occurred between the Anbar tribes and the Coalition and Iraqi government. The New York Times reported over the weekend that 25 of the province's 31 tribes have organized to oppose the insurgency and al-Qaeda.  ...

The Anbar tribes have taken great risk by publicly going on record against the insurgency and al-Qaeda. In May, I documented al-Qaeda's assassination program against tribal, clerical and government leaders in Anbar. The threat is real. There is also the possibility that some of the 6 remaining tribes have held out from taking a stand against al-Qaeda out of fear of retribution. ...

The cooperation of tribes with the Iraqi government and Coalition forces is not a new development in Anbar. Nor is the willingness of the tribes to fight against al-Qaeda. Over the summer of 2005 and spring of 2006, I documented numerous incidents of 'red on red' infighting, as well as the formation of the 'Anbar Revenge Brigade.' I sat in on tribal meetings in Husaybah, where tribal leaders openly expressed a willingness to assist with stability, security and reconstruction. The tribal leaders have repeatedly expressed an interest in ejecting the jihadis from their midst, but fear, intimidation and outright violence have prevented them from organizing.

He also talks about press reports that the US has "lost" Anbar.

I've received plenty of questions about the intelligence report that claims Anbar province has been lost. I've talked to several sources in the military and intelligence who have actually seen the entire report (and not been fed excerpts). They are angry over the media's characterization of the report. Basically, the report indicated that the situation in Ramadi is dire, and that the political situation in Anbar as a whole as a result is in danger because of this. ...

Since my sources were unwilling to go on the record, I chose not to address this directly. If the military community is unwilling to step up to the plate and defend itself, except in vague terms, about the situation in Ramadi then they will have to deal with the backlash of this decision. Good work has been and continues to be done in Anbar. The military has a problem with public affairs, plain and simple, and fails to realize that the impact on remaining silent on this report far outweighs the need to keep the information classified.


The case for saying the US has militarily lost in Iraq is based on the application of a model to events there. The idea being that America will get the same "treatment" that Israel received at the hands of Hezbollah after Peace for Galilee. As in Lebanon, there has been a race between sides as to who will generate the most force from the local inhabitants. The US started this race early on, in its attempts to create an Iraqi government and an Iraqi Army. It seems to me that Global Guerilla's claim that the enemy is generating force from locals at a faster rate than the Americans has basic problems: America has stood up several Iraqi divisions and an internationally recognized government. The insurgents don't even have a single united front, let alone a shadow government, and they certainly don't seem to have the troop numbers of the Iraqi government. What you can say with certainty is they haven't even been able to prevent the Iraqi buildup. So to argue that they can suddenly do what they haven't done and surround and destroy US bases is somewhat questionable.

But Global Guerillas has an undoubtedly valid point lurking underneath the disputable facts. Simply put, the primary determinant of an insurgency's failure or success crucially depends on who the population thinks will retain the field. In every successful counterinsurgency it was clear to the population that the counterinsurgents would stay the course. Nothing would help the case of Iraq more than a bipartisan policy to finish the job. But because it seems likely that the Democratic policy will essentially abandon the Iraqi government, the insurgency will always remain strategically viable, no matter how weak it may be tactically. So unless the Iraqi government is set up so solidly that an eventual insurgent victory is out of the question or a bipartisan policy to support some eventual Iraqi successor state is established, the Global Guerilla scenario remains in play.

Parenthetically, a site called Done with Mirrors has a long post on what the author helped in achieve in Iraq, describing a catalogue of reconstruction projects which you and I will never hear of. The standard antiwar response to this is "so what?". But one response is to ask: "how did they do this without local support? If the enemy were so all powerful and omniscient?" It is really the "how did the Iraqi government and army happen?" question in a reconstruction context. The truth is that it has always been a horse race and not just the insurgent horse lapping the field. But again, the fundamental question each and every indigenous ally of America asks himself, at 2 am in the morning, or when he starts off for work is: will America abandon me? And the answer, of some politicians at least, is darn tootin' we'll abandon you. And if you are sufficiently certain of that abandonment, there is only one rational course you can take.

That said, there are really important differences between Israel in Lebanon and America in Iraq. Israel could never escape suspiscions it wanted territory, while it is abundantly clear that America doesn't want a square inch of Iraq. Also, Israel took sides in a civil war. In Iraq, America is working for the implementation of an Iraqi constitution which creates a federal state, with the central government in charge of working out resource sharing. This is a fundamental difference. Iraq is naturally three nations. It became a unitary state under Sykes-Picot, as an imperial Anglo-French exercise. America has given the Iraqis a chance to leave the Sykes-Picot framework in a constitutional and consensual manner. In a very fundamental sense, history is on America's side and insurgency which aims at re-establishing some ethnic dominance are really fighting the tide of events. Concealed in the debate about Iraq is the little recognized detail that a Federal Iraq with a Shi'ite majority is inherently far stabler than a Sunni minority-dominated state under a strongman, which is what liberals, who ought to know better, seem to hanker for. The bottom line is that the Global Guerillas scenario can occur if America doesn't come up with a settled bipartisan policy to support an democratic Iraqi successor state. And since there is about a 45% chance that the Democrats may win and eventually abandon the state, there is about a 45% chance that America will be driven out of Iraq.


Blogger NahnCee said...

Ummmmm, since you're the military expert and tactician, can you at least point us novices in the proper direction we should be thinking about?

I'm guessing it's either "the sky is falling - retreat retreat" or "don't believe anything you read anywhere anytime".

Does full-scale war in Iraq mean we can't nuke Iran? That would be a major bummer, if so.

9/20/2006 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger skipsailing said...

the Marines, as I recall, wanted to use an oil spot approach in Ramadi. This is a long, long process anti insurgency efforts always are. We are months into a process that's likely to take years.

It seems to me that a staff paper was leaked. It is my understanding that many such staff papers are created as major decisions are considered.

further, I wonder if the press, hurting for bad news, simply picked this up as a way to keep their bureau chief in baghdad rice bowls going.

In short I don't believe much of what I'm hearing now. The "play by play" espn mentality makes no sense in this context.

while I'm hungry for news about Iraq credible reliable information has become quite rare.

9/20/2006 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger warhorse said...

NahnCee, we are nowhere near the point where the insurgents/terrorists/badguys can force a military defeat on us. We may, however, be approaching the point where we will have to accept the need to either play a lot rougher, or go home. Then again, that's probably something we should have done a while ago anyway, IMO ...

9/20/2006 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...


I think the US is fundamentally in a different position from Israel in that it has no ground to hold nor territory to covet. No one but the Iraqis would lose if America withdrew. Furthermore, the "insurgency" is now mostly about Iraqis fighting each other. A lot of the army is Kurdish and Shi'ite. The Kurds would see any American defeat as their defeat; as their death sentence.

One simple way to beat a Sunni insurgent blockade would simply be to let the Shi'ites loose. And I don't think the Sunnis are at the top of the Power Curve. By numbers and comparative strength, they are if anything, on the decline. And that is the part of the reason why you have ethnic unrest.

9/20/2006 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger skipsailing said...

One other thought: As a recovering New Yorker I have learned that the in your face attitude is best when used only as a last resort. Starting an interaction with cordiality doesn't mean that other approaches are eliminated.

If the conclusion is reached that the current approach in Ramadi is unworkable, the option to escalate still exists.

but if we begin with urban assault, the oil spot option no longer exists.

Ramping up Vs Ramping down.

9/20/2006 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Good Captain said...

I am unfamiliar w/ the first site whose predictions are extremely dour, but I have followed Mr. Roggio's site for the past year including his short stint w/ the Counter-terrorism blog. Based on this alone, I have great respect for Mr. Roggio's take on the fight there. I don't think anyone feels this is in the bag, but the constant naysaying in the hostile press has innoculated me to their claims UNLESS it can otherwise be verified.

One important piece of the puzzle not mentioned in the Global Guerrillas piece is the impact that a simultaneous attack on the terrorists' nation-state supporters (i.e., Iran and possibly Syria) would have on the terrorists' ability to supply itself longer - term.

9/20/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Bush would send troops to Pakistan for bin Laden
President Bush said Wednesday he would order U.S. forces to go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan if he received good intelligence on the fugitive al Qaeda leader's location.
But we won't bomb Taliban in Tight Formation.
Go Figure

9/20/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

Iraq is about the size of California. It just slays me when one "expert" after another makes a general statement about the state of affairs there when it actually only applies to a single location.

Having made that observation, it does indeed appear like overall, the situation in Iraq has worsened. Places like Mosul, Basra & Anbar Province, not to mention Bagdad itself, have been in the news more lately and the news has been disheartening. It's just so hard to tell if these spots are really seeing a deterioration in security or if the newsmen are just making it sound so.

I haven't been digging into the news from Iraq like I had when folks like Yon & Roggio were sending regular reports from there so my opinions are being shaped more by mere headlines than actual detail-rich reports from what I consider reliable sources.

9/20/2006 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Foreign troops in Afghanistan will not be able to end attacks by Taliban militants unless "terrorist sanctuaries" outside the country are destroyed, President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday, in a clear reference to Pakistan.
NATO troops are battling to quell the heaviest bout of violence in Afghanistan since 2001 when U.S.-led forces overthrew the Islamic-fundamentalist Taliban, which had been sheltering Osama bin-Laden and his al Qaeda organization.
The Elephant Bar

"This notion that anybody who has a record as a terrorist will get safe haven -- we would not even think of doing that,"
Bush said.
Thus Orwell Spoke.

9/20/2006 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Is the Fallujah II treatment more costly than the current strategy?

Since Fallujah has apparently been to a reasonable degree, and since jihadis do not seem to respond to anything but death or grievous maiming, one would have to conclude No, the Fallujah II tactic would Not be more costly.

There will only be an end when there is stunning and catastrophic violence levelled at Ramadi. It has never been anything but a hive. Unfortunately we have shown a tendency to acquiesce to the tribal intrigue that passes for politics in Iraq, which has delivered Sadr to the Star Chamber, and has caused other difficulties. I'm sure the line is a fine one, but frankly this is the Gordian Knot that must be cut if the Middle East is to be democratized or in any credible sense modernized, so we might as well begin with the lunatic Ramadi.

As for the two analyses posted by Wretchard, they are obviously mutually exclusive. Roggio seems like a great journalist; unfortunately it strains credulity that recalcitrant Sunni tribes, however harassed by jihadi infiltration and foreign influence, would suddenly volunteer as a fifth column for the Coalition/Iraq forces. The more dire scenario sounds a little more catastrophic than the Arabs are capable of; urban warfare of the revolutionary-war variety would likely not be possible under whatever passes for a command structure among the various jihadi, tribal and criminal groups. It is a blessing and a curse that this culture is so addicted to its factionalism. And a spontaneous meltdown into near-simultaneous-if-uncoordinated-violence sounds like science fiction or Marxist pipedream on the order of 1848 than anything else (although not completely beyond the realm of possibility).

With respect to the "Anbar lost" memo, was it ever won? The most steady theme following Saddam's deposition has been "Anbar is a hive of smugglers, tribal rivalries, and inflitrating jihadis." I don't think I've ever heard it named as one of the peaceful 14 provinces often cited by the administration.

9/20/2006 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger rich said...

It is doable but not easy according to this article.

“Freedom and Justice in Islam” by Bernard Lewis 7/16/2006, is in the September Issue of Imprimis (the Hillsdale College magazine.)

Lewis also reminds us how difficult democracy is, citing the travails of France in achieving democracy.

The final two sentences are:

“I think that the effort is difficult and the outcome uncertain, but I think the effort must be made. Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.”

Austin Bay linked to this article as it appears in Real Clear Politics.

9/20/2006 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Dent said...

Nahncee, do you have a secret 'off switch' that is only known to those who never come here?

9/20/2006 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wretchard said. . .
Concealed in the debate about Iraq is the little recognized detail that a Federal Iraq with a Shi'ite majority is inherently far stabler than a Sunni minority-dominated state under a strongman, which is what liberals, who ought to know better, seem to hanker for.

Actually, you've got this completely backwards Wretchard. The Federal bil being put forward by the head of SCIRI, Abdul Aziz al-Hakin would lead to the fragmentation of Iraq, by carving it into three autonomous super-zones. The Kurds have already quietly seceded, and SCIRI hopes to control its own region in the South, with Basra as its capital. Arrayed against the Federalism bill are the Sunni, who would be starved of all the oil that is primarily in the South and Sadr, who would have to fight for control with SCIRI in the Shiite zone. So far the Sadr/Sunni parliamentary line has won, which is why SCIRI grows increasingly impatient . . .

9/20/2006 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I just left Ramadi in late June and although I was serving with an Army unit (109th Inf.), I can tell you, unless something very wrong happened very soon after I left, Ramadi is secure.

Our replacements arrived with almost double our numbers and with more serious equipment. I find it hard to believe the replacements are having such difficulty with the insurgency.

9/20/2006 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...


I haven't got it backward at all. Here, before revisionism overtakes it is a US Insitute of Peace description of the Iraqi Constitution in 2005. The main objection to it then was that it provided for very little power for the Iraqi Federal Government and that this recipe would lead to the breakup of Iraq. But that was what the Constitutional convention provided. To say a unitary Iraq was contemplated in its constitution and then later dumbed down is not true.
Wikipedia describes the Constitution as it passed:

and here is the Institute of Peace PDF.

9/20/2006 06:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Death squad activity has been assumed to mean the situation is deteriorating.

I believe the opposite is true. Death squads are an unavoidable part of snuffing out the Sunni insurgency.

The war against Communism was won, to a substantial extent, by death squads in Latin America. They killed a lot of people who were no more than mildly sympathetic with communism, but the successfully prevented the establishment of any communist governments in the Southern Cone or Central America.

9/20/2006 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

The important thing, however, would be whether the death squads were working for us.

Most of what I'm seeing suggests that we're not getting involved in things that dirty, and Sadr/Iranian death squads are filling the gap and getting the credit for fighting back against the Sunnis.

9/20/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Furthermore, our goals are so far enunciated as more than a lowest common denominator military victory - they include a political victory. Sectarian bloodshed, especially one that is fed from the outside and cannot be cracked down upon, prevents it.

9/20/2006 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

wretchard said...
But that was what the Constitutional convention provided.

No, that is not what the convention provided. The Institue of Peace analysis is glib and misses three key constitutional flaws (see below). Here is no less an authority than Kanan Makiya, the Iraqi exile who sold the administration on the Iraqi people being liberal and secular. Here is his partial concession and warning of the fragmentation built into the constitution:

(NYTimes 12/11/05:

Worse, profound tensions and contradictions have been enshrined in the Constitution of the new Iraq, and they threaten the very existence of the state.
How did we get here? Much has been said about American failures in Iraq. And rightly so. But, as I've seen as a participant in political discussions both before and after the war, we Iraqis have also failed to lay the ground for a new order.

For the new political elite cast into power by the elections last January has been unable even to begin to create a stable and strong Iraqi state to replace the one overthrown in April 2003. . . something has gone terribly wrong, and not for lack of any American effort to turn the situation around. . . .

There is little chance that the winner will command the authority inside Parliament to reverse the decline, for a simple reason: the Constitution.

All signs suggest that this Constitution, if it is not radically amended, will further weaken the already failing central Iraqi state. In spite of all the rhetoric in that document about the unity of the ''homeland of the apostles and prophets'' and the ''values and ideals of the heavenly messages and findings of science'' that have played a role in ''preserving for Iraq its free union,'' it is disunity, diminished sovereignty and years of future discord that lie in store for Iraq if the Constitution is not overhauled.

ANY government that emerges from the coming elections will be fatally undermined in at least three ways.

First, the Constitution establishes a supremely powerful Parliament, which can ride roughshod over the executive. While that Parliament, as it is designed in the Constitution, looks like a democratic institution, it doesn't work like one. Rather, it is an artificially constructed collection of ethnic and sectarian voting blocs. If the experience of the interim government is any guide, the few people who control those blocs are the ones who will wield real power, and they will do so largely through handpicked committees and backroom wheeling and dealing. Because this cabal of powerbrokers also chooses the president and the prime minister and can dismiss them with a simple majority, there will be no check on the tyranny of majorities operating under the aegis of the legislature.

Second, executive power is divided between the president and the council of ministers, guaranteeing that major decisions will be met with the same tension and paralysis that have plagued the present government. Both the president and the prime minister (it is assumed, though not explicitly stated, that these two posts will be apportioned out to a Kurd and a Shiite Arab, as they are at present) can separately present bills to Parliament -- a sure recipe for conflict. And both the president and the prime minister can be fired after a no-confidence motion endorsed by a parliamentary majority. At a time of civil war and pervasive violence, in other words, no one person or institution can be said to be in charge of the executive branch of the federal government.

Third, the Constitution encourages the transformation of governorates and local administrations into powerful, nearly sovereign regions that, with the exception of Kurdistan, have no underlying basis for unity. And while the articles dealing with the functioning of the federal government are poorly worded and intended to dissipate executive power, the 10 articles of Section 5, on the powers and manner of formation of new regions, are a model of clarity and have been drafted with the sole purpose of encouraging new regions to be created at the expense of the federal union.

This guarantees that the more Iraqi provinces opt for regional status, and get it, the more the federal state will shrivel up and die.

Makiya has gotten much wrong, but this analysis has been tragically spot on. Iraq's "federalism" has been a recipe for disaster.

9/20/2006 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Give credit to Makiya. He desperately wants to see Iraq succeed but he has the integrity to face the many mistakes and present chaos head on.

How to determine whose analyses -- Makiya's or the Institute of Peace's -- has proven more useful? Just look to the paralyzed governments of Jaafari and Maliki and the efforts of SCIRI to form an autonomous region in Southern Iraq. Even the Bush administration is losing patience with Maliki. The question is who shall follow him.

9/20/2006 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...


You've just proved my point. The Iraqi Constitutional convention provided for three nearly independent states. At a convention. With elected delegates. In fact, they asked the help of European constitutionalists from Spain, who had experience with devolution, to help them in framing their constitution. I'm sorry if the NYT and Kanan Makiya or George Bush are disappointed in the Iraqi Constitution.

The alternative would have been to handwrite the Constitution, much as MacArthur did with postwar Japan. To the extent that the Iraqis decided to reject the Sykes-Picot scheme and opt for a federal government, it has not met the prewar billing of the President. But I think you will concede, from your own quotes, that Iraq's devolution is mandated by its Constitution and ratified by its public, who elected a multiethnic government (what other kind could there be) to carry it out.

But to return to my original argument, which shows very clearly now in the light of your own research, to maintain that somehow the Iraqis want to come under some unitary insurgent government, which will proceed to throw America out and reconquer the Shi'ites and the Kurds is pretty far-fetched. Of course this is precisely why there is no insurgent united front and why there will probably never be.

9/20/2006 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...


That's not to say that the Central Iraqi government is doomed. As designed under the Iraqi Constitution, it vested with the power of apportioning the oil resource and foreign policy, as well as some aspects of border control. The central government is a practical necessity, even for three federal states. I wrote on this extensively before, and will find the post in which it was discussed. Some commentators have described the current instability in Iraq as largely due to the fact that the Sunnis, unlike the Kurds, have not retreated to their "homelands". Nor is such a matter so easy. Baghdad, for example, is a highly mixed area and it will be far from trivial to manage the transition.

But I think you can see now, from your own research, what the Iraqi vision for Iraq is. A federal system with a central government administering resource sharing treaties. And I think it's fair to say that it is a legitimate and attainable vision, albeit one fraught with danger. Having this clear in our heads we can compare it to the vision of the enemy. For the Sunni insurgency, it is a return to sectarian supremacy over the whole of Iraq, or such of it as they can grasp. The Mullahs in Iran probably have mirror ambitions. In my opinion, those imperial visions are no longer attainable. Some version of the federation is the only stable outcome conceivable. It is certainly more stable than any unitary state we may feel nostalgic for.

9/20/2006 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...


"If placed along critical US military supply routes or immediately outside US mega-bases, and augmented by informational superiority (a combination of better local intelligence and advanced signals intercepts), these defensive tactics would extract a heavy toll on US troops "

Yeah, until the M1A1 tank PLT showed up and smashed the little hedgehog into bloody pieces which were then bounced by the JDAMs falling from the sky.

The US went into Fallujah and Najaf after OIF and the Thunder Runs during OIF. For light infantry to stand and fight against the US is death - not matter if it it Tet or Iraq.

Hezbollah had a decade to prepare the battlefield and the terrain favored the defense. Isreal did not do an Ardennes on Hezbollah's Maginot line.

Not so in Iraq. We retain freedom of manuver and overwhelming superiority.

Global Gorillas may be a better moniker.

9/20/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

wretchard said...

You've just proved my point.

If you approach the same data set with two different theories do you get two different results? Wretchard, as you know, your point is a compound one. It rest both on:

The Iraqi Constitutional convention provided for three nearly independent states.


The central government is a practical necessity, even for three federal states.

As you readily admit: And I think it's fair to say that it is a legitimate and attainable vision, albeit one fraught with danger.

What’s more though, you believe that this delicate balance can be done by a deeply divided parliament filled with militia (and terrorists!) representatives in the midst of massive sectarian violence. Fraught with danger, or horribly misguided? What is to keep the autonomous regions from de facto secession?

Makiya writes:

This guarantees that the more Iraqi provinces opt for regional status, and get it, the more the federal state will shrivel up and die. Moreover, with the exception of those who reside in provinces without oil (or in Baghdad, which cannot join a region), it is in the interest of every populist demagogue to press for regional status, because it is at that level that the lawmaking that truly affects day-to-day life will take place.

The powers of the new regions will be enormous. Not even the Iraqi Army can travel through one without the permission of the regional Parliament. And should there be any doubt about where the whip hand will lie on any issue not explicitly addressed in the Constitution, Article 122 states: ''Articles of the Constitution may not be amended if such amendment takes away from the power of the regions ... except by the consent of the legislative authority of the concerned region and the approval of the majority of its citizens.''

There is nothing wrong with having strong regions within a federal union. Unfortunately the new Iraqi Constitution fails to inject the glue that would hold such a union together: the federal government. It sets up a regional system with big short-term winners (Shiite Arabs and Kurds) and big short-term losers (Sunni Arabs). It even allocates extra oil and gas revenues to the regions that generate them, on the implicit assumption that because of the political inequities of the past, the state owes the Sunnis of the resource-poor western provinces less than it does the Shiites and Kurds. But these provinces are not significantly better off than other parts of Iraq. . . By ceding and dismissing centralized power, Iraqis may end by ceding all their power. Iran in the short run, and the Arab world in the long run, will fill the vacuum with proxies, turning the dream of a democratic and reborn Iraq into a dystopia of warring militias and rampant hopelessness. (emphasis added).

Wretchard, why is a Spenglerian pessimist like yourself quoting the Institute of Peace (IoP), and why is an anti-Wilsonian Burkean like me invoking Kanan Makiya (KM)? In my case, I find Makiya’s mea culpa and warnings of disaster compelling, almost close to an example of Bertrand Rusell’s “evidence against interests”.

Makiya is one of the prime intellectual authors of this war and he wants to see it succeed. He honestly believes that this constitution will lead to the dissolution of Iraq, and he demands a far better one. Read his essay in full and tell me if you don’t find it compelling. Then perhaps you can explain to me the appeal of the IoP analysis.

Both the IoP and KM’s analyses were published last year, and we have some tragic recent history to test them. Which theory has better explanatory ability for the present? One of “stability, functioning government and peace” (IoP) or “fragmentation, paralysis, disaster” (KM)? Which one most adequately explains the Jaafari government? Which one the waning fortunes of the Maliki government?

Which theory better explains the Iraqi Civil War (labeled thus by no less a personage than the neocon, Bush apologist Charles Krauthammer in one of his recent WaPo columns!)? We can let your readers decide which one they find more cogent for comprehending the present, and we can revisit the issue as we watch the travails of the Iraqi government.

9/21/2006 06:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rich 5:54 PM

"Lewis also reminds us how difficult democracy is, citing the travails of France in achieving democracy.

The final two sentences are:

“I think that the effort is difficult and the outcome uncertain, but I think the effort must be made. Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.”

How 'bout we destroy them? Worked in Japan.

9/21/2006 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Thrasymachus said...

"Death squad activity has been assumed to mean the situation is deteriorating. I believe the opposite is true. Death squads are an unavoidable part of snuffing out the Sunni insurgency."

I think Thrasymachus has got it right. This war in Iraq has been fought in phases. First there was the overt military phase where we took out Saddam's government. Then there was the initial occupation phase where we took out Saddam's dead-enders and made some initial mistakes since corrected. Then began the unsymmetric warfare phase against al Qaeda and Baathist terrorists (funded and supported by international Sunni Arabs). A few months ago, Sunni terrorist power was effectively broken so now begins the Shiite milita phase with Shiite militas (funded by Iran) attempting to fill the power vacuum left by the Sunni terrorists (the Shiites are killing off the remaining people from the previous phase). This will be the most sensitive part of the whole process since the Shiites represent the majority of Iraq's people. Of course the MSM is oblivious to all of this and merely harped the same story through out the process.

9/21/2006 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Iran is trying to form a Hezbollah-type blight in Iraq. Will it suceed? I doubt it because Sistani is not behind it.

We have already fought the Shiite militias in Najaf and elsewhere.

This is just more of the same. In this case, they are small teams, rather than massed militias.

"Shiite milita phase with Shiite militas (funded by Iran) attempting to fill the power vacuum left by the Sunni terrorists (the Shiites are killing off the remaining people from the previous phase). "

9/21/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger José Joseph said...

"Lewis also reminds us how difficult democracy is, citing the travails of France in achieving democracy."

This exercise points out yet again that democracy is not part of the Arab or muslim culture. Democracy barely succeeds (?) within a Persian muslim country like Iran. It totally fails in African muslim counties.

The reason for the relentless failure is that democracy is not, as some like to think, a Greek invention. It is an American Christian invention, transplanted by European Christian trouble-makers, Huguenots and Puritans

Democracy requires a key Christian concept which other cultures don't have: The Golden Rule. For you non-believers, it goes like this: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The question that needs to be asked before embarking on foreign adventures (such as crushing Japan or Iraq) is: can we slam a whole lot of Jesus into this place befofre it blows up in our face? Can we succeed in changing these people so that they care for each other? In the case of any of the Iraqi peoples, the answer is so obvious. No, they will never succeed in caring for strangers like Christian peoples can.

The second hurdle that must be dealt with is,"Can these people differentiate between truth and fiction?" Muslims can't do this. Most believe that the holocaust never happened, and that muslims are better than other people, that women are inferior, and endless punishment succeeds. This means that muslims can never administer anything bigger than a two-room school without making a mess. Outside consultants are needed for even the smallest of tasks. The only stable state for a nation of muslims is a dictatorship, but even these will eventually run amok. Egypt, for example, has long relied on its Coptic Christian peoples to administer all the affairs of the Egyptian state. Egypt would sink, like Somalia, without the Copts.

Trying to create a democracy in a place like Iraq is such a hopeless task. The Christians (God bless 'em) have been shut out. The problem remains: how do we change their hearts?

9/21/2006 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Steel Monkey said...

This exercise points out yet again that democracy is not part of the Arab or muslim culture.

You could have said that about every nation on earth at some point in time.

In 1974 you could have said that democracy isn't part of Spain's culture and that is why General Franco rules Spain like a dictator.

In the mid-1980s you could have said that democracy is not part of the far East Asian culture and that's why Taiwan and South Korea are ruled by dictatorships.

In 1980 you could have said that democracy is not part of Eastern European culture and that's why Eastern European nations are ruled by communist dictatorships.

The flaw in these arguments (and the argument that you Islam and democracy don't mix, which ignores the nation of Turkey and the fact that Iraq has already held three freely held and competitive elections and that the Kurdish part of Iraq has been democratic even prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom) is the premise that culture is static. Culture is dynamic, not static, which explains why the United States used to be the world's largest slaveholding nation but abolished slavery. It also explains why Japan and Germany, nations that brought the world one of the bloddiest wars in World History are now relatively successful democracies at peace.

9/23/2006 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger José Joseph said...

The flaw in these arguments (and the argument that ... Islam and democracy don't mix, which ignores the nation of Turkey"

With respect, I disagree. In all your examples, democracy recovered, which it will do within Christendom. Democracy always fails outside of Christendom, barring brute force intervention. Your examples are not indicative of success. Turkey is held together by the Turkish army's iron-fisted control of its secular constitution. And Iraq's democracy (here's hoping) is being band-aided by America. It's still wobbly, not done yet.

9/23/2006 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Steel Monkey said...

Democracy always fails outside of Christendom, barring brute force intervention.

Japan, South Korea, Taiwan? Christian nations?

Even many Western European nations are, today, less Christian than Atheist/Agnostic.

9/23/2006 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Steel Monkey said...

...and Kurdistan (Kurdish Iraq) starting its democracy project years before Operation Iraqi Freedom. That provides evidence that the "Islam and democracy don't mix" argument is less than completely sound.

I will make two additional clarifications, however.

I would make a distinction between Islam the religion and Islam the culture, just as I would make a distinction between Christianity the religion and Christianity the culture.

I would define Islam the religion as an unchanging set of principles.

I would define Islam the culture as how people who call themselves Muslims actually live and it varies from place to place and from time period to time period. It is Islam the culture that we have to be concerned about. We non-Muslims can not repeal certain objectionable versus from the Koran, but we can influence the Islamic culture, just as America influenced the Japanese and German culture by defeating and occupying those these nations in World War II.

My second point is that because of the current shambles that is the Islamic culture (it has been in decline versus the West for centuries), democracy could be harder for the Islamic world compared to other nations.

Still, if in 1944 you had said that Japan and Germany would be successful democracies by 1974, you would have been laughed at..... and correct.

9/23/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger José Joseph said...

Japan, South Korea, Taiwan? Christian nations?

I didn't say these are "Christian nations". I said that democracy inevitably fails outside of Christendom. I agree that there's a difference between the religion and the culture, which is why I use the term "Christendom". This is the term commonly used to describe Christian culture.

South Korea, for example, has a large Christian content. South Korea even sends Christian missionaries to Iraq. North Korea, clearly, is outside Christendom. Japan, with its Christian weddings, Christmas, etc has a strong leaning toward Christian ways. Altho admittedly not statistically "Christian", Japan has produced dozens of amazing, even startling, Christian martyrs. Japan has a had Christian foundation imposed upon it by General MacArthur and, so far, they're not complaining.

It looks to me like Japan and South Korea qualify as part of Christendom. Taiwan, with its Christian schools and universities, propably qualifies, too. As soon as the Christian teachers are welcomed, the Christian ways start appearing. After a few years of pro-democracy riots, democracy settles in and stabilizes. Eastern Europe is going through that phase right now as we blog.

9/24/2006 02:06:00 AM  

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