Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Monday, August 04, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


Post Saddam Iraq


The Boston Globe reports some good news:

For a second straight day, the US military reported no fatal attacks yesterday on American soldiers in Iraq. In a series of raids, troops detained two dozen people they said were participating in the violent resistance to the US occupation, including a ''targeted leader.''

The US Central Command said yesterday's raids by the Third Armored Cavalry in the so-called Sunni Triangle west and north of the capital netted ''24 regime loyalists, including a targeted leader.'' It provided no details on the identities of the captives.

No fatal attacks, yes, but attacks continune, as do civilian casualties:

A 75 -year-old Iraqi farmer was shot dead and his son wounded Sunday, August 3, after being turned back at a coalition checkpoint west of Fallujah, as U.S. soldiers came under a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack in northeast Iraq on the road between Baquba and Baghdad, wounding two of the troops.

As U.S. occupation troops trawled Iraq for ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Sunday, the two Iraqis were caught in the lethal crossfire of the U.S.-led forces war on Iraqi resistance fighters.

So we're wounding and killing more innocent Iraqis, which only creates more resentment. It also seems that we're hell-bent on pissing off our allies, the Kurds, in the process:

U.S. forces arrested Sunday, August 3 the spiritual leader of the Kurdish Islamic Movement - the Kurds' oldest Islamic group Ali Abdul Aziz, and 14 other people in the northern town of Halabja as U.S. troops in the war-ravaged country still take resistance fire.

"Some 2 ,000 U.S. soldiers, supported by two helicopters, laid siege to Abdul Aziz's house in Halabja at 5 : 30pm (1330GMT) on Saturday (August 2) before taking him and 14 other people away," Agence France-Presse quoted the official as saying.

Mullah Omar, brother of Abdul Aziz, and bodyguards of the spiritual leader were among those arrested, he said, adding that the group was taken to an "unknown destination."

"The group is surprised that the Americans can arrest its spiritual guide who has long since declared war on the Baath party and the former regime in Iraq," the official said, accusing U.S. forces of now attacking "supporters of freedom and enemies of Saddam Hussein's regime."
...
Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier and two Iraqi civilians were wounded near Baquba, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Baghdad, Lieutenant Colonel Bill MacDonald of the Fourth Infantry Division (4ID) said Monday, August4.

With this as backdrop, I noticed that the Strategic Studies Institute, an Army think tank, has a recent paper on Nationalism, Sectarianism, and the Future of the U.S. Presence in Post-Saddam Iraq:

The removal of Saddam's regime created problems and opportunities for Iraqi ethnic and religious communities. Arab Shi'ites, who comprise the majority of the population, saw new opportunities for political leadership, perhaps with a powerful but fragmented clergy leading the way. Sunni Arabs correspondingly worried about a new distribution of power, and many began to view de-Baathification as a process that further threatens their community. Kurds remain interested in de facto, but not formal, independence from Iraq, and the danger of an Arab backlash to Kurdish aspirations is correspondingly serious. Tribal identities further complicate the situation.

Some attacks against U.S. forces have occurred following the war with most of the violence associated with residual Saddam loyalists from among the Sunni Arab community. Many Shi'ites are more reluctant to engage in such activity so long as it appears that they can take power by political means. Nevertheless, strong anti-U.S. views are present in the pro-Iranian Shi'ite organizations, and these views may spread among other Shi'ites over time. The possibility of confrontations between U.S. troops and hostile crowds is particularly worrisome as is the availability of massive quantities of weapons to the Iraqi population.
...
Iraqi nationalism is currently in the process of redefining itself for a post-Saddam world. The chances of this nationalism being anti-Western and anti-U.S.seem serious.
...
[T]he United States has a reputation in the Arab World of favoring democracy so long as the democratic process produces leaders acceptable to Western interests. Advocating democracy and dictating who can be elected are two different concepts. One of the clearest ways the United States can avoid a nationalist backlash is to recognize that ousting Saddam Hussein has not earned for us the privilege of dominating Iraq for the indefinite future. If U.S. leaders believe that it does, then the United States has truly become a colonial power that will inevitably face colonial wars.

If we don't have the right to determine who the Iraqis choose to lead them, what does the future hold? Edward Luttwak from the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote an op-ed piece in the Telegraph and offers a sobering assessment:

By now...it should be obvious that no significant population group in Iraq wants the democracy that the Bush administration is striving so hard to establish.
...
It would be an astonishing achievement of cultural transformation if a functioning Iraqi democracy could be established in a mere 30 years, or indeed 60. But the Bush administration cannot contemplate decades of colonial government, and is therefore pushing for the formation of some kind of elected government in two or three years, after a constitution is written and approved by referendum, so that elections can be held.

But the immediate problem is that even that perilously accelerated time-table is much too slow for many Iraqis - and for the US Army, which is heading for a veritable collapse in re-enlistments among the troops serving in Iraq.
...
It is thus not just the successive delays in rotating forces home that are ruining morale, but the mission impossible of turning Iraqis into democrats in short order. Now that hopes of recruiting large numbers of peacekeepers from other countries have faded, the time has come to prepare the next-best exit strategy. If equipped with an adequate security force, there is no reason why the new Iraqi Governing Council cannot be left to rule on its own - and such a force could be formed quickly out of existing Kurdish and Shi'ite militias rounded off with police forces raised in Sunni areas as well. The continued survival of Saddam Hussein is no obstacle to a rapid hand-over of power. He has no loyal followers in Iraq but for the Sunni tribals, who can longer impose their will on most Iraqis.

The perils of a rapid exit are many, but the only alternative is a prolonged occupation that offers no greater guarantees of success, at far greater cost.

Okay, I think this finally pushes me into the rapid exit camp. I had been waffling for a while, not necessarily agreeing with the "we broke it, we bought it" mentality, but recognizing that maybe there were some lessons to learn from the two times we've effectively abandoned Afghanistan. Now I've been brought back full circle, and believe that all of our troubles with terrorism are a result of our poking our guns where they are not wanted. If we would stop trying to dictate to the world how other people should run their lives, that would go a long way to reducing terrorism. Instead, we continue to antagonize other nations in our futile efforts to eradicate that which cannot be eradicated. We're not "draining the swamp", we're creating new swamps everywhere we go. Time to let go of our arrogance.

More immediately, let's bring our soldiers home.

ntodd 
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