Thursday, July 12, 2007

Seven Futures

Austin Bay describes seven possible scenarios following a US withdrawal from Iraq to try and create a framework to imagine what might happen. "Here are seven 'scenarios' sketching 'potential outcomes' of a quick withdrawal from Iraq. They are not mutually exclusive. They could well 'blend.' In fact, an amalgam of the first six could occur. ... These are speculative dramas. The US and the Iraqi governments have their own scenarios. I am certain that Iran, Al Qaeda, Syria and Turkey have also analyzed potential outcomes and made plans accordingly." Quickly, the scenarios are:

  1. Three New Countries
  2. Regional Shia-Sunni War
  3. Turkey Expands
  4. Shia Dictatorship
  5. Chaos
  6. “Gang Up”
  7. Surprise—The Iraqi Center Holds

Readers interested in the details should go to Austin Bay's site. But he concludes: "Out of seven possible “rapid withdrawal” scenarios only one –number seven– clearly benefits the majority of Iraqis. And the US. And the civilized world."

Interestingly -- but probably wisely -- Austin Bay has avoided assigning probabilities to individual scenarios or mashups of scenarios. Realistically, none of the regional actors is simply going to roll the dice and hope they come out on top. Austin is dead on when he says "Iran, Al Qaeda, Syria and Turkey have also analyzed potential outcomes and made plans accordingly". They are not going to roll the dice, they are going to load the dice to increase the odds their favored outcome results. Any reasonable analyst, I think, will concede that.

The sad question is: will the US do the same? Upon a withdrawal all eyes will be focused on watching the result. But if things aren't working out the way (Scenario 7) the US hopes because Iran, for example, is shaking the table to make Scenario 4 come true, what can American policy makers do? Threaten to invade Iraq? Threaten to punish Iran? None of these threats will have much credibility in the aftermath of a withdrawal.

I think the key problem that must attend any forced American retreat from Iraq is avoiding the appearance and reality of having thrown in the hand. How do you walk away from the table without leaving the game? That's the key dilemma. And the answer, I think policy makers will find, is that you can't. Absent a complete disinterest in the outcome of the game, a willingness to accept whichever scenario eventuates, regardless of its desirability, there will be enormous pressure to remain in the game somehow, either by backing one of the remaining players or attempting to play from afar.

Given the strategic importance of the region the real nightmare scenario is that you will have to go back in after you have talked yourself out.


Blogger Tarnsman said...

8. The American center holds. US forces remain engaged. Al Qaeda driven from Iraq. A federal Iraq emerges. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Turkey continue to scheme
against Iraq and worry about its half million man American trained and equipped Army. Iraqi oil production rises, stabliziing the world market. The Iraqi economy continues its boom and many of the displaced Iraqis return home. Ex-president Bush comes to Baghdad and receives a hero's welcome.

Hey, it could happen.

7/12/2007 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/12/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

7/12/2007 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Can we pull out of Europe, too?

7/12/2007 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Iraq is an imperial political conception whose time should come to an end. Of course, the same is true for much of the currently drawn Middle East. The Middle East is unstable because its political boundaries are artificial and contrived. And it is specifically because these political boundaries so contrived that political despotism has been advanced. Because political despotism is the only way to maintain these imperial political entities.

7/12/2007 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The most likely scenario is a combination of 1,2,3,4,5, and 6. 52 card pickup. I expect Iraq's neighbors to partition it much as Prussia, Austria, and Russia partitioned the Kingdom of Poland-Lithuania. This partition need not be official, but it can be de facto, much as China and Persia were partitioned into spheres of influence in the late nineteenth century. Indeed, the Baker-Hamilton Report essentially advocates the partition of Iraq into Iranian and Saudi spheres of influence through the means of a "diplomatic offensive" to accept Iranian-Saudi terms of Iraq's partition.

The United States needs to do whatever it can to promote a strong Iraqi state and a strong military deterrent against its neighbors. Any other course would be perceived as a green light for Iraq's neighbors to take out their knives and conquer.

In this light, it was a dreadful mistake for the Bush administration to state as one of its war aims that Iraq would no longer be in a position to threaten its neighbors, for unless Iraq can credibly threaten its neighbors, there is no incentive for neighboring powers to stop meddling in Iraq's internal affairs. If Iraq is to exist at all as a sovereign state, it must be militarily strong enough to not only threaten its neighbors but to serve as a rallying point for the patriotic loyalty of Iraqis.

7/12/2007 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger herb said...

Wretcherd said
Absent a complete disinterest in the outcome of the game

An ABC (USTV) reporter asked Harry Reid (D-Quit) what happens to the Iraqis in the event:

They don't know nor do they want to know. They didn't know in 1975 and didn't want to know. It's only a bunch of (insert your racial epithet of choice here) Two million people died then. I expect the carnage to be even more to their liking this time.

7/12/2007 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

One undeniable outcome from an American withdraw from Iraq:

We're done. It's over. No nation would ever be so stupid as to ally with us again in time of need.

Nationally, no man with any sense would wear the uniform of a nation that will have set such a well established propensity to run away from a fight simply due to enemy propaganda and the useful idiots that adhere to such.

Internationally, we will have proved that we are the spineless, weak, stupid jellyfish that our enemy has labeled us as being. That will be the accepted reality the world over. We might as well disarm and await whatever destruction our enemy feels appropriate.

7/12/2007 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...


One specific example of likely outcomes: Nations in East Asia, who would normally form a forward base for freedom against a rising China -- Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines -- would make their accommodation with their largest trading partner, which is now China, rather than get caught in the middle of any trans-Pacific spat. China wouldn't need to declare a Monroe Doctrine -- we'd be delivering it to them.

7/12/2007 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dana said...


That's just part of the payback for cowardice on our part.

What remnant of those in the UK willing to stand up with us will be thoroughly discredited. The UK will begin the process of aligning fully with the EU.

The EU will begin aligning more closely with a resurgent Russia and will no longer pretend to not be overtly hostile to the US.

Those within the US that are still loyal to US sovereignty will be lessened in number and strength and the North American Union will draw that much closer to reality.

This could very well be the beginning of the end phase for the US as an independent and sovereign nation.

7/12/2007 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...


All quite likely.

And so the long term project of the international Left, begun decades ago by people like Willi Muntzenberg and Antonio Gramsci, to undermine the legitimacy and confidence in Western institutions, may be reaching its denoument.

Many of those now in leadership positions in the U.S. believe virtue can be found in a hobbled and humbled America.

I remember John Kerry -- back in the early 70's -- saying that he would only wish to see U.S. troops deployed at the direction of the UN. Ronald Reagan interrupted, briefly, the Left's Long March.

A global propaganda campaign has convinced many around the world that the most generous and benevolent great power in history, under whose hegemony the last 50 years have been the most progressive in human history (that according to the UN) should be diminished, if not dismantled or destroyed altogether.

7/12/2007 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Nature abhors a vacuum and so does evil. The last best chance for the world is American resolve. If we roll back to our shores; it will push millions of "moderate" Muslims into the militant camp. If they don't fear us might as well get theirs.

Interesting Bible verse in Ezekial 38; 13-Context: an invasion of Muslims and Russians into Israel. Verse 13- talks of impotent nations on the sidelines that will pontificate " Are you coming to take a spoil? ) The war will proceed and set the world in flames.
Ezekial 39:6 states that part of divine intervention on behalf of Israel, the Lord will " rain down fire on those who dwell securely in the coastlands"
Fatalistically, if this prophetic verse is to occur, maybe there is no point in resisting the Islamic surge. Then again, I'd rather we went down fighting than crapping our britches on the sidelines.

7/12/2007 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”

- Marcus Tullius Cicero

7/12/2007 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...


Excellent reference. Nothing new under the sun. We humans doom ourselves repeatedly to learning the same bitter lessons, over and over again.

7/12/2007 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Dana said...


Just a reminder. There are those of us who are duty bound by oath to defend both the US and its Constitution against ALL enemy, foreign AND domestic.

Oaths bind for life. There are many who understand that. The only question is how far the gangrenous rot will be allowed to spread before we stand up and commit ourselves to corrective surgery.

Remember this: Defeatism is its own kind of treason.
Hard times are ahead but the enemy will not be allowed victory.

7/12/2007 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...


Comforting to know.

Sometimes it seems like the relativist fog which presently envelopes the West enables many to accept at face value the calculated (and slanderous) arguments made by 'friends' and enemies against us and rationalize cowardice and defeat as forms of virtue.

7/12/2007 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dana said...


I do not know you nor your history. For all I know, you have more cause and virtue of experience to say these things I am saying. Nothing said here is meant to offend or insult. (disclaimer required because I often tend to devolve toward confrontational when discussing such issues.)

Each of us. Every adult of The West, man or woman, military or civilian, regardless of national origin, has a place on the parapet in this war for our very survival.

Those of us who can not take up arms against our foreign enemy have a duty to stand the line against our domestic enemy. This duty is not optional. Those who fail in this duty are without honor and counted among the enemy.
At this time, the fight is in the realm of public attitude and against the enemy propaganda and those who adhere to it.

I ask you to take the 6 and a half minutes and watch this video:

It is a compilation of recruiting adverts for the USMC. This attitude is not specific to Marines. Nor is it specific to those who have joined in our military to fight.

The adverts are service centric, of course, but the attitude is universal among all who understand honor and integrity. I ask you to pay special attention to the last 45 seconds of the compilation. That is the part most relevant to this discussion.

It is our duty to stand against defeatism, misinformation, enemy propaganda, dispair and lack of resolve.

If, in our daily activities, we allow any such poison to pass uncontested for any reason, we have failed in our duty.

Where there is fear, provide strength. Where there is despair, provide hope. Where there is defeatism, provide implacable resolve.

Treason will be met with merciless accountability when the time comes.

7/12/2007 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/12/2007 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...


Again, eloquent comment.

I had seen the compilation either last week or the week prior. I watched it twice, stored in my favorites and forwarded a link to it to those I felt would most appreciate it.

Agreed that responsibility lay with each of us. Indeed, we bear responsibility -- through neglect and a false belief that the way we live is the default mode of human organization -- for allowing the nation's political machinery to fall largely into the hands of hustlers, demagogues and C-students.

I am more optimistic than my comments in this thread might indicate. I'm an American, after all, and resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and challenge make me more alive.

I'm simply looking to the struggle ahead, to the price we'll have to pay -- one larger than need be -- but cognizant that generations before us have met the challenge. If only we didn't squander what they suffered to give us in the process.

To that end, I participate in ways a civilian can -- political activity, involvement in community affairs, some volunteer work, ideological crusading among friend and aquaintances, contributions to organizations which provide comfort and care to those who serve.

I wish I'd started doing these things earlier in my life. It took many years working and traveling in the more Hobbesian neighborhoods of this planet for me to appreciate what we have.

Having a passport has made me more patriotic, not more transnational.

7/12/2007 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Random Axess said...

Consider this possibility:

Item #2. Regional Shia-Sunni War is the most likely. One form this might take is that the Iraqi government and army will ally with Iran, and will get involved in Iran's project vs. Israel. Half a million American trained Iraqi soldiers plus half a million Iranian soldiers will be more than enough to engage Israel. Turkey will stay out of the way, If Saudi Arabia interferes may be crushed by Iraq/Iran. With Israel's back to the wall nukes may fly, or Iran/Iraq may be defeated by Israel/USA conventionally, or The Sunni states may attempt to defend Israel as a group calling America back onto Arabian soil, or Iran/Iraq army may roll over Israel ushering in the tribulation.

Also consider this possibility:

Item #5. Chaos. America’s stature as a superpower and worthy ally will decline substantially but not precipitously. America’s stature as a world power will be saved by China that doesn’t want the boat rocked too much during their industrial revolution. China and Japan will continue to soak up America’s debt, and will essentially end up owning America. America will become the de facto military arm of the Chinese empire except that America will still defend Japan from China if needed. China will call the shots of America’s future military adventures and will be sure to back us up enough to keep the global power structure we have built and maintain credible. China is interested in developing Africa, and so many of America’s future military adventures will be in Africa to serve the interests of China.

7/12/2007 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/12/2007 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...


Jesus (sorry), I hope not. But what you've described is certainly plausible. I've thought along the same lines with regard to the Middle East and China's gender-disparity birth rate, producing millions of young men with no hope of mate or marriage. Leaving them at home would pose problems. An occupation army for the oil fields and the "South China" sea?

History has a way of confounding us would-be prognosticators.

(Cue sounds of whistling is the dark.)

7/12/2007 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

I hate to intrude on a chickenhawk whine-fest. After they enjoy their fat tax cuts in a booming economy, perhaps it just feels good to say we are gutless and the rest of the world that refused to join us or do any real heavy lifting (except for 3 nations) will consider us "cowards".

And in America, all the burden and all the sacrifice was put on 3% of the present population that went in harm's way for the Neocon vision, and on our kids and grandkids who will pay Bush's IOUs to China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia for funding the Iraq War while he cut taxes.

Yeah, we proved we are cowards - just as the Canadians trounced our invasion force in 1812, just as we gutlessly refused to challenge the Royal Navy in the 19th Century. Then we miserably failed to save the European aristocracy from themselves in WWI then just let the Russians go Bolshevik simply to avoid a million dead Americans in that civil war meat grinder.

Then we "lost" China for good old Chiang Kai Shek. Then we let the more populated South Vietnamese lose simply because they lacked the will to fight the N Vietnamese had. And we could have saved all those noble Congolese, Darfurans, Rwandans, Ethipians, Somali, Zimbabweans, Liberians, and all the noble Shiites of Iraq and Iran if only we had the guts as the World's morally obligated 911 Service to fight and die for them...

Well, once the blame on America for all the 3rd World slaughter and refusal of natives to fight more dedicated communists is over, once the blubbering is done about our "supreme moral obligation to defeat all Israel's enemies"....

Oh, boo-hoo!

After all that, I strongly urge the last chicken hawks to either run for office promising multiple "good wars" (Hint: You won't be elected) - or just stop the uncontrolled sobbing, sober up - and go to your nearest military recruiter.

A fundamental rule in militaries is don't be stupid enough to step in the middle of someone else's war.
Another rule is to have the whole nation engaged, at risk, define what victory is, and define the exit strategy ready for either victory or defeat.
Another rule is that sacrifice must be fairly borne by the nation. You don't fuck over the most patriotic, the ones with the most dangerous and vital roles year after year with extended deployments announced at the last minute, stop loss orders, 4 years of active as a Reservist...or trickery to reuse soldiers that have served their whole enlistment or commission time...
We currently have a fine crop of saber-rattlers that howl in outrage at the thought of a Draft or ending tax cuts for the wealthy and think we can fight the two wars we are in plus invade Syria, Iraq, Pakistan on top of that. All on the cheap...And ignore that we have officers that have had 4 combat tours since 2003, served honorably and got out, now are being involuntarily recalled for a 5th combat tour from inactive reserve and almost to a man, have retained lawyers to fight the new undue burden on Army and Marine fighters that did far more than any other Americans since 9/11.

My own scenario is that the majority of Iraqis who approve of killing us infidels aren't worth it - and we only have been keeping their taste for sectarian civil war bloodshed thwarted and the cost of our blood and treasure.

Let 'em have at it. The more killed, the merrier, IMO. They had their chance with us, and the backstabbers blew it.

7/12/2007 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Rosen said...

Bwahah. I knew C-fudd couldn't stay off the Jew-baiting for even a day. What an addict.

7/13/2007 01:24:00 AM  
Blogger montag said...

What will be the outcome of a war conceived of a lie and born of falsehood?

Or, when one removes the forces of stability and order and unleashes a paroxysm of lawlessness...what will happen?

Eloquent comments all.Too bad that the Future has already been born.

Born in sin, come on in.

7/14/2007 04:09:00 AM  

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