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    what part about "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" don't you understand?..., 2006-11-21 13:27:34 | Main | "A timetable for Iraqis to withdraw from Iraq"..., 2006-11-29 13:08:41

    civil war, what civil war:

    Thanks NBC. Eventually the Whitehouse may cave on this one. The only question for responsible, moderate Americans is to debate what to call the next stage in Iraq's de-evolution we need to "prevent" so their government can save face by vaguely acknowledging reality.

    Now 25% or so of us seem to think that maybe the best thing for the Iraqis would be to turn their country into glass, that's one extreme. (just kidding, ha ha, oh wait) The other extreme view, held by say 65% of us, is to talk about leaving 3.5 years too late. For the other 1% - representing the serious people in the middle who run the Whitehouse, write the op-eds, and do political "journalism", as if there were much difference - the thing to decide is what the hell we're going to call the next thing we're ostensibly needed in Iraq to prevent.

    Nir Rosen offers some 20/20 hindsight, running the gamut from the Golden Understatement of the Century ("the Americans were merely one more militia among the many, watching, occasionally intervening") to:

    Although the Bush administration has criticized the Iraqi government for not disarming the militias - and this is certainly the most important problem facing Iraq, apart from the occupation - this is an untenable first step. The militias exist because there is no security in Iraq. And when the Bush administration criticizes the Iraqi government for being weak, they forget that they deliberately made it weak and dependant on their dictates. The American failure to provide security has led to the militias. The American sectarian approach has created the civil war. We saw Iraqis as Sunnis, Shias, Kurds. We designed a governing council based on a sectarian quota system and ignored Iraqis (not exiled politicians but real Iraqis) who warned us against it. We decided that the Sunnis were the bad guys and the Shias were the good guys. These problems were not timeless. In many ways they are new, and we are responsible for them. The tens of thousands of cleansed Iraqis, the relatives of those killed by the death squads, the sectarian supporters and militias firmly ensconced in the government and its ministries, the Shia refusal to relinquish their long-awaited control over Iraq, the Kurdish commitment to secession, the Sunni harboring of Salafi jihadists - all militate against anything but full-scale civil war. ... America did this to Iraq. We divided Iraqis. We set them at war with each other. The least we can do is stop killing them and leave Iraq.

    The National Security Archives offer some US government 20/20 foresight:

    The 1999 war game outcomes for post-invasion Iraq, called "Desert Crossing", was declassified this month. The press has reported that this called for 400,000 troops, but the June 28th, 1999 Desert Crossing after-action report says "U.S. action (involving up to 300,000 ground troops in the region)" [p.20], and I didn't see anything more specific than that from the after-action reports made available. The 400,000 figure appears to come from interviews with General Zinni, and other recent sources. So take it or leave it.

    The scenarios focused on in the game were not much like the one actually played out in 2003, on the other hand. What was actually persued is repeatedly rejected throughout the report as the least feasible and most dangerous: what war gamers called the "Japanese Option" combined in tandem with the likewise difficult "inside-out" approach: we persued a long-term presence and directed change while letting some Iraqi leaders rise "naturally" to a position of dependency on said long-term presence, or varying positions of militant opposition to said long-term presence.

    Also, in the after-action reports they don't forsee an extended guerilla campaign by Sunnis, because they never imagine let alone suggest disbanding the entire Iraqi army or waging an indiscriminate campaign of de-Baathification. They only talk about which regime elements to co-opt and, likewise, enlisting the local technocrats who were keeping minimal services running to oversee reconstruction and administration of the new regime's essential functions.

    The 'optimistic' outcomes, while not all that optimistic, required abandoning any ostensible liberatory pretexts, and simply installing Saddam-lite, which - by say sometime around 1992 - was the existing status quo. Someday we might have the records to examine the extent to which the administration swung from its own propaganda.

    Some worthy passages I noted while scanning through the documents when they were released:

    It often seems that Saddam Hussein is the source of all instability in the Gulf region. However, Iraq in Saddam's wake is likely to be unstable and this instability may spread if not properly managed. From example, Iraq's neighbors may seek to take advantage of this period of uncertainty. Or, the country could fragment along religious/ethnic lines. Or, internal forces could create domestic and regional chaos as they bid for power.


    Unified Sunnis who would oppose US forces hold in central Iraq but are unable to control other regions while sections break away. Likelihood of foreign intervention increases.


    Even when civil order is restored and borders secured, the shape and style of the post-Saddam regime could be problematic - especially if percieved as weak or out-of-step to the prevailing structure of national governments. The presence of a government that may be more representative (i.e. democratic) in its decision-making functions than any of its neighbors may invite the conduct of subversive activities in Iraq. Neighboring regimes will also be concerned with any catalyzing effect on their own pro-democracy movements. In a sense, a western-style democracy may not engender long term stability without considerable stabalization, preparation, and long-term sustainment. [p.10]


    What participants referred to as the "Japanese Option" (long-term presence and directed change), while at the extreme end of the spectrum, is not likely to be well recieved by coalition partners. Even less drastic approaches for dealing with anticipated refugee flows and humanitarian concerns, while likely to be better recieved than long term occupation, would significantly impact Iraq's neighbors with potentially destabalizing results for U.S. relationships with regional and other Middle Eastern states.


    Although the insights drawn from the seminar are significant, most problems remain unsolved and most issues require substantial research and refinement.

    Well yeah, these neolithic cavemen were simply overlooking the clear alternative. Wiser men saw through the rhetoric: instability should be the goal! Ha, victory!

    Or one could just have paid attention to what they were doing in Afghanistan while everybody was flapping their gums over Iraq.

:: posted by buermann @ 2006-11-27 23:30:31 CST | link

    go ahead, express that vague notion

    your turing test:

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