View Full Version : 5 Ways To Prevent Iraq From Getting Even Worse

10-24-2006, 11:16 AM
22 October Time Magazine commentary - 5 Ways To Prevent Iraq From Getting Even Worse (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,1549305,00.html) by Aparism Ghosh.

... There are no good options left in Iraq. To those who have lived through the daily carnage wrought by organized criminals, sectarian militias and jihadist terrorists, the idea that the U.S. can prevent a full-scale civil war--let alone transform Iraq into a stable democracy--has been dead for months. The main question is, How long will it take for military officials in Iraq and policymakers in Washington to concede that the whole enterprise is closer to failure than success? Midway through what is already one of the deadliest months this year, the U.S. military's spokesman in Baghdad, Major General William B. Caldwell IV, last week called the persistence of sectarian violence in Baghdad "disheartening" and acknowledged that the three-month-old U.S. campaign to take back the city has gone nowhere. That verdict added to rising clamor for an overhaul of the U.S.'s strategy in Iraq. In recent weeks, senior Republicans, like Virginia Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, have said the Bush Administration should insist that the Iraqi government demonstrate progress by the end of the year or face a change of course by the U.S. Foreign policy hands in both parties are hoping that the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic Representative from Indiana, will provide the White House with the political cover to abandon its now quixotic goals of creating democracy in Iraq in favor of a more limited focus on establishing enough stability to allow U.S. troops to leave without catastrophic consequences. "You can't sugarcoat that. The Iraq situation's not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word. What the U.S. needs to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and the costs," Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former member of the Administration's foreign policy team, said last week. The question, Haass added, is "how poorly it's going to end up."

It's not just the politicians who are reassessing the U.S.'s options in Iraq. General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has ordered a group of young officers to review the military's strategy in Iraq and ask tough questions. Pace is pursuing the underlying riddle: Why are there almost as many U.S. troops in Iraq now as there were two years ago when, in the interim, more than 300,000 Iraqi security forces have been recruited and trained? Pace, according to an officer familiar with the process, wants to know, What's wrong with this picture?

So what can still be done? Despite the consensus of gloom--Bush told ABC News last week that the violence in Baghdad "could be" compared to the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968-69, which helped turn many Americans against that war--few Iraqi or U.S. officials believe an immediate withdrawal is wise or likely. But paralysis could be worse. So the focus is on finding ways to bring violence down to a sustainable level, after which the U.S. can begin to extricate itself from the mess. At this late date, there's nothing the U.S. or the Iraqi government can do to stop the bleeding altogether. Iraq's most pressing problems may still take years to resolve. But quick and decisive action in a few key areas could at least help slow the inexorable descent into anarchy. Here are five of them:

Clean Out the Rogues. ... To anybody paying attention, it's clear that the security forces, broadly divided between the police under the Interior Ministry and the army under the Defense Ministry, are the main vectors of the widening civil war. The bureaucracies and the fighters have been infiltrated by militias, notably the Mahdi Army of Shi'ite radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iran-backed Badr Organization, affiliated with the dominant party in the Shi'ite coalition that controls parliament. Many policemen and soldiers are more loyal to their sect leaders and militia bosses than to the Iraqi government. In Baghdad, for instance, many police vehicles and Interior Ministry offices bear stickers and posters of al-Sadr. Sunni victims of sectarian violence routinely accuse the police and army of looking the other way when the militias unleash havoc--or worse, joining in the killing...

Deal With al-Sadr. ... In public, the U.S. military says al-Sadr--who controls a sizable block of parliament--is a major political figure and must be treated accordingly; in media briefings, even al-Sadr's name and that of his militia are studiously avoided. Privately, however, American commanders say they would like the shackles taken off just long enough to deliver some blows against the Mahdi Army. It wouldn't be simple: a full-frontal assault on heavily populated Sadr City isn't a smart option, and a senior U.S. intelligence officer says that "Sadr himself has a diminished ability to command and control his forces." But the U.S. may still be able to do some good by hacking away at those elements of the Mahdi Army responsible for the worst sectarian atrocities and criminal activities. Doing so, however, would require more steel from the al-Maliki government. After the U.S. arrested a top al-Sadr operative in Baghdad last week, a man they described as "the alleged leader of a murder and kidnapping cell" in east Baghdad, the Prime Minister emerged from a meeting with al-Sadr in Najaf to order the man's release.

Bring the Sunnis Back. ... Sunni parties boycotted the vote on the federalism bill and are threatening to withdraw from the all-party government. The risk is that more Sunnis will join the insurgency, which is being driven by extremist jihadis who have taken over parts of western Iraq. The Mujahedin Shura Council, an umbrella of jihadist groups that includes al-Qaeda's Iraqi wing, last week announced the formation of an Islamic state in "the Sunni provinces of Iraq." Scores of white-clad jihadis staged a brazen show of force in several towns in Anbar province. Although the majority of Sunnis want no part of an Islamic state run by jihadis, they may feel they have no option if the political process seems rigged against them.

One option, says the Western diplomat, is to use U.S. leverage with the Kurds to "get them to stop pushing the Sunnis into a corner." That would isolate the Shi'ites, who won't have a large enough majority in parliament to pass legislation. Khalilzad can draw on the fact that the Kurds, although committed to their own autonomy, owe their very existence to American arms. And the growing number of jihadist attacks on Kirkuk, a northern city coveted by the Kurds for its rich oil deposits, shows that they too stand to lose by radicalizing the Sunnis.

Wake up the Neighbors. Since Syria and Iran are a big part of Iraq's problems--Damascus shelters and funds Sunni insurgents; Tehran arms and trains Shi'ite militias--they will have to be a big part of any solution. That has always been clear in Baghdad, where leaders like President Jalal Talabani maintain that the U.S. needs to engage Iraq's neighbors in some sort of dialogue, through unofficial channels if no other options exist. Talabani told the BBC last week that "if Iran and Syria were involved, it will be the beginning of the end of terrorism and securing Iraq within months."...

Get Tough then Get Out. Given the breakdown of security in much of Baghdad and western Iraq, military commanders won't contemplate an imminent reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq--which is holding steady at 140,000. And although some hawks, like Arizona Senator John McCain, advocate sending more troops in the short term, the Bush Administration--and the public--hasn't signaled any inclination to do so.

Even at current troop levels, U.S. forces may be able to bring the violence down to a more tolerable level. As the insurgency has intensified, many U.S. units have gone into "force protection" mode: going outside the wire only when a situation has reached crisis proportions and there's little they can do to set things right...

Much more at the link...

10-24-2006, 11:18 AM
Related and a H/T to Global Guerrillas - Manufacturing Chaos in Iraq (http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2006/10/journal_manufac.html).

TIME's Aparisim Ghosh reports that General Peter Pace belatedly has convened a group of young officers to answer the question: Why are there almost as many U.S. troops in Iraq now as there were two years ago when, in the interim, more than 300,000 Iraqi security forces have been recruited and trained?

I provided one answer to this question two years ago, when I wrote about loyalist paramilitaries (October 2004). The answer involved two elements. The first was outsourcing security, particularly in the British controlled south and Baghdad to "loyalist" paramilitaries. The second was incorporating paramilitary members into the new Iraqi security forces, particularly since they were more willing to fight than the general population. In classic US fashion (a reflection of the paucity of strategic thinking in our general staff), training to the numbers (quantity) and the early effectiveness of the unit in a fire fight (expediency) was deemed more important than loyalty of the unit to the government. The long term implications were not considered.

The result is that over the last two years the US military has actually created an environment that is conducive to a bloody and chaotic civil war. By partnering with paramilitaries, we accelerated the development of those forces that would take the war to the Sunnis.

What can we do? Nothing but leave. We can neither expect the leadership of US military to develop sound strategies for mitigating the damage done, nor can we reverse drivers of chaos that have been initiated over the last three years. This chaotic system is now running smoothly under the power of its own internal dynamics and continued intervention will only continue to worsen it. Withdrawal is the only option. The faster the better.

10-28-2006, 10:28 PM
... on this thread (http://www.captainsjournal.com/2006/10/28/five-ways-to-prevent-iraq-from-getting-even-worse/) and 5 ways to prevent Iraq from getting even worse.

... While some arrangement must be made with the Sunnis in order to go forward with a unified Iraq - if there is to be one - the use of Sunni proxy fighters, arming the Sunnis, and in any way aiding a civil war between the Sunnis and Shia are certainly not among those helpful suggestions for a plan for the future.

10-29-2006, 12:36 AM
I am inclined to take seriously the article in the November/December 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs by Richard Haas entitled The New Middle East (http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20061101faessay85601/richard-n-haass/the-new-middle-east.html)which describes the end of an era and the loss of American influence, the conditions and why they exist, and recommendations about how we can go about regaining some of our influence

10-29-2006, 01:10 PM
Seems to be moving closer and closer to the school definition of a civil war...from the Sunday Washington Post article by Ricks

A series of grim events on the ground in Iraq deepened fears that the nation is sliding closer to a full-blown civil war. A battle between two towns -- one Shiite, one Sunni -- on opposite banks of the Tigris River earlier in the month epitomized the factors tearing the country apart. A vengeance killing blamed on Sunni Arab insurgents based in the farm hamlet of Duluiyah prompted a killing spree targeting Sunnis across the river in the predominantly Shiite city of Balad. The U.S. military and residents of both Duluiyah and Balad accused the towns' police of taking part in the killings.
Looking for protection, Shiites in Balad turned not to their elected government or to the U.S. military but to Shiite militias, summoning them from Baghdad. By the time the killing ebbed three days later, at least 80 people were dead. Balad was all but empty of Sunni families, which had lived among Shiites for generations.
The militias blamed in many of the Sunni deaths belong to two Shiite religious parties that dominate Iraq's five-month-old government. Maliki, a Shiite, has used his position to block U.S. efforts to crack down on militias. Last week he denounced a U.S.-backed Iraqi raid into Sadr City seeking the most notorious of the death-squad leaders. U.S. officials had not notified Maliki before the raid.

10-30-2006, 11:10 AM
30 October USA Today - Hard-Won Turf Easily Lost in Transfer to Iraqis (http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20061030/a_iraqtactics30.art.htm) by Rick Jervis.

... Here and across Iraq, the U.S. military has had difficulty sustaining the hard-won gains carved out through its “clear, protect, build” counterinsurgency strategy. In most cases, Iraqi police and troops have been the weak link...

The strategy uses joint U.S.-Iraqi offensives to clear towns or neighborhoods of insurgents and militias. In most cases, Iraqi police and army troops are left behind to provide security. Then, reconstruction projects — the “build” component — are launched quickly to demonstrate quality-of-life improvements in newly secured areas.

In Baghdad, U.S. forces have been using the same strategy in an intense, neighborhood-by-neighborhood security operation since June.

“The plan for Baghdad was clear, protect, build,” Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said last week. “Our ultimate intent is to help the citizens of Baghdad feel safe in their own neighborhoods, and this is not something that's going to happen overnight.”

Success has slipped away in places where the Iraqi security forces that assumed control have been outgunned by armed groups or have been compromised by their ties to militias and political groups, said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a think tank based in Arlington, Va.

“We simply overestimated the capacity of the Iraqi people to defend their democracy,” Thompson said. “If Iraqi security forces can't be counted on, we have no strategy for winning.”...

10-31-2006, 09:10 AM
31 October Los Angeles Times - U.S. Military Resistance to Deadlines Weakening (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-deadlines31oct31,0,6295222.story?coll=la-home-headlines) by Julian Barnes and Doyle McManus.

Growing numbers of American military officers have begun to privately question a key tenet of U.S. strategy in Iraq — that setting a hard deadline for troop reductions would strengthen the insurgency and undermine efforts to create a stable state.

The Iraqi government's refusal to take certain measures to reduce sectarian tensions between Sunni Arabs and the nation's Shiite Muslim majority has led these officers to conclude that Iraqis will not make difficult decisions unless they are pushed...

10-31-2006, 09:27 AM
21 October Los Angeles Times commentary - How to Cut and Run (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-odom31oct31,0,6123563.story?coll=la-opinion-center) by LTG William Odem (USA Ret.).

... Our leaders do not act because their reputations are at stake. The public does not force them to act because it is blinded by the president's conjured set of illusions: that we are reducing terrorism by fighting in Iraq; creating democracy there; preventing the spread of nuclear weapons; making Israel more secure; not allowing our fallen soldiers to have died in vain; and others.

But reality can no longer be avoided. It is beyond U.S. power to prevent bloody sectarian violence in Iraq, the growing influence of Iran throughout the region, the probable spread of Sunni-Shiite strife to neighboring Arab states, the eventual rise to power of the anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr or some other anti-American leader in Baghdad, and the spread of instability beyond Iraq. All of these things and more became unavoidable the day that U.S. forces invaded.

These realities get worse every day that our forces remain in Iraq. They can't be wished away by clever diplomacy or by leaving our forces in Iraq for several more years...

Some lawmakers are ready to change course but are puzzled as to how to leave Iraq. The answer is four major initiatives to provide regional stability and calm in Iraq. They will leave the U.S. less influential in the region. But it will be the best deal we can get.

First, the U.S. must concede that it has botched things, cannot stabilize the region alone and must let others have a say in what's next. As U.S. forces begin to withdraw, Washington must invite its European allies, as well as Japan, China and India, to make their own proposals for dealing with the aftermath. Russia can be ignored because it will play a spoiler role in any case.

Rapid troop withdrawal and abandoning unilateralism will have a sobering effect on all interested parties. Al Qaeda will celebrate but find that its only current allies, Iraqi Baathists and Sunnis, no longer need or want it. Iran will crow but soon begin to worry that its Kurdish minority may want to join Iraqi Kurdistan and that Iraqi Baathists might make a surprising comeback...

The second initiative is to create a diplomatic forum for Iraq's neighbors. Iran, of course, must be included. Washington should offer to convene the forum but be prepared to step aside if other members insist.

Third, the U.S. must informally cooperate with Iran in areas of shared interests. Nothing else could so improve our position in the Middle East. The price for success will include dropping U.S. resistance to Iran's nuclear weapons program. This will be as distasteful for U.S. leaders as cutting and running, but it is no less essential. That's because we do share vital common interests with Iran. We both want to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban (Iran hates both). We both want stability in Iraq (Iran will have influence over the Shiite Iraqi south regardless of what we do, but neither Washington nor Tehran want chaos). And we can help each other when it comes to oil: Iran needs our technology to produce more oil, and we simply need more oil...

Fourth, real progress must be made on the Palestinian issue as a foundation for Middle East peace. The invasion of Iraq and the U.S. tilt toward Israel have dangerously reduced Washington's power to broker peace or to guarantee Israel's security. We now need Europe's help. And good relations with Iran would help dramatically.

No strategy can succeed without these components. We must cut and run tactically in order to succeed strategically. The United States needs to restore its reputation so that its capacity to lead constructively will cost us less.

10-31-2006, 01:21 PM
31 October Boston Globe - Audit Faults US Training of Iraqis (http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2006/10/31/audit_faults_us_training_of_iraqis/) by Farah Stockman.

Deteriorating security in Iraq and bureaucratic wrangling between the State Department and the Pentagon have undermined the US government's effort to train provincial governments, according to a report to Congress released yesterday by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

The training, done by "provincial reconstruction teams" of soldiers, aid workers, and diplomats, is meant to coach local authorities in Iraq on how to deliver basic services to their municipalities, and to take over duties from the US-led coalition, such as running elections and making decisions over local budgets.

The teams were considered such a critical part of the Bush administration's strategy to build up the new Iraqi government that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presided over the inauguration of the first team in Mosul last November.

But disagreements over which branch of the US government would fund and protect the teams, along with threats and attacks on personnel, have greatly hindered the effort.

Now, a year later, only four provinces out of 13 examined by the special inspector general's office had US personnel that were "generally able" to carry out their missions, according to a detailed audit on the teams released by the inspector general on Sunday. Teams helping nine other provincial governments reported varying degrees of success, from "somewhat able" to "generally unable" to fulfill their missions...

The inspector's office said the State Department had difficulty finding foreign service officers willing to join the teams, filling just 60 percent of the civilian positions. The teams also lacked consistent funding, the audit said. The State Department requested $400 million in supplemental funding for the teams, but a congressional subcommittee recommended that funds be reduced to $300 million and that disbursement be withheld until the State Department filed updates on the teams' progress. Those updates were submitted last week.

The audit said the State Department and the Department of Defense have argued over who is responsible for the security of the teams and who should pay the bill for the programs, noting that the two branches of government still have not come to an agreement on how to work together.

The audit, which praised the cooperation and dedication of individuals in the field, represents the most comprehensive look at the provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq. It was one of several audits released over the weekend.

10-31-2006, 02:06 PM
Cordesman weighs in, 30 Oct 06: Iraq: Milestones, Benchmarks, and Real World Options (http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/061030_iraq_benchmarks.pdf)

The new "tactical" approach to Iraq that President Bush presented last week leaves four major sets of issues unaddressed, all of which make that new approach questionable at best:

1. Reaching A Political Compromise May Not Be Possible -- Particularly Soon Enough to Meet a US Schedule
The tacit assumption that underpins the entire approach is that a viable political compromise is possible in Iraq that goes far beyond the national political structure in Baghdad, and which can unify a large part of the Iraqi people. A sub-assumption is that the failure to reach a compromise to date is the fault of the Iraqi leadership, and new efforts can change this situation. The reality may be very different...

2. Developing Effective Iraqi Forces May Not Be Possible -- Particularly Soon Enough to Meet a US Schedule
To put it bluntly, US reporting on Iraqi force development has lost credibility. Nothing about Iraqi performance in the field indicates that the army, security forces, and police are “75% complete.” There is no reason to believe Iraqi force development can be effective in 12 to 18 months without massive Iraqi success in reaching a political compromise that sharply reduces the demands for Iraqi effectiveness and the unity of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) in dealing with insurgents, militias, and death squads.

Progress is being made, and there are many reports about individual Iraqi units carrying out local missions, taking risks, and taking casualties. The fact remains, however, that far too many Iraqi army units are being credited with taking the lead or being effective in the field, and that effective units are being lumped together with units that will not perform their missions, which are tied to sects and factions, and which often have only 50-60% of their manning...

3. The US Has Not Said a Meaningful Word About New Approaches to the Economy, Aid, or Oil
As SIGIR and other reports have made all too clear, the US economic aid effort has fallen far short of its goals, if not largely failed. The current aid program is running out of money, has fallen far short of its objectives, and in many cases has left projects the Iraqis cannot afford to sustain without further aid.

The State Department has reported that as of October 24th, the US IRRF-1 and IRRF-2 program totaled $20.9 billion. Some $20.6 billion had already been committed, $20.3 billion had been obligated, and $15.9 billion had been dispersed. (Some $4.6 billion on that total was spend on security.) The US program for the future will add only about $800 million, not enough to sustain even part of the necessary Iraqi forces development effort.

Unemployment ranges in the 20% to 25% level, and the combined total for unemployment and underemployment often reaches 40% to 60% for young Iraqis in high risk and depressed areas. Income distribution is terrible, sectarian and ethnic fighting are highly disruptive to economic activity, and there is a major drain of skilled professionals...

4. There is No Clear US Alternative
(complete 10 page paper at the link)

10-31-2006, 06:21 PM
Here is a report on the status of PRTs in Iraq for those interested.


11-01-2006, 09:09 AM
1 November Washington Post - U.S. Officers Detail Problems With Iraqi Soldiers (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/31/AR2006103101123.html) by Walter Pincus.

U.S. military advisers are confronting difficult behavior from Iraqi soldiers, who tend to fire all their ammunition in response to a single sniper shot or go on rampages even against civilians upon witnessing the death of a colleague, according to Lt. Col. Carl D. Grunow, a former adviser to an Iraqi army armored brigade.

"The 'burst reaction' may be attributed to Iraqis experiencing denial, anger and grief all at the same time," Grunow wrote in a recent article published in Military Review, the bimonthly publication of the U.S. Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

He attributes that reaction to the Iraqi army's experience in the "high-intensity Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, a war with clear battle lines fought with mass military formations." At that time, Grunow writes, "Iranian human-wave assaults presented Iraqi soldiers with a target rich environment" and "battlefields covered with bodies following huge expenditures of ammunition."

His article, based on his year in Iraq, which ended in June, is in the July-August Military Review (http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/CAC/milreview/English/JulAug06/indexjulaug06.asp) and is one of several in recent issues that have dealt forthrightly with concerns of military participants with the U.S. effort to rebuild Iraq's army during the ongoing war...

11-01-2006, 09:28 AM
1 November New York Times - U.S. Central Command Charts Sharp Movement of the Civil Conflict in Iraq Toward Chaos (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/01/world/middleeast/01military.html) by Michael Gordon.

A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.

A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.

The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.

In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemy’s fighting strength and the control of territory...

11-01-2006, 01:50 PM
Is there any reason to classify anything anymore? I think that lately I have read more classified material on the news than at work.


11-01-2006, 02:08 PM
The chart on the NYT web page:


11-02-2006, 01:27 PM
2 November USA Today commentary - Last Gasps In Iraq (http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20061102/oplede02.art.htm) by Ralph Peters.

On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki obeyed Muqtada al-Sadr's command to withdraw U.S. troops from Baghdad's Sadr City. He halted a vital U.S. military operation. It was the third time in less than a month that al-Maliki had sided with the anti-American cleric against our forces.

President Bush insists that we have no conflicts with the al-Maliki government. The president isn't telling the truth — or he himself doesn't support our military's efforts. He can't have it both ways. Bush appears increasingly desperate just to get through the upcoming elections...

Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise. Even six months ago, there was hope. Now the chances for a democratic, unified Iraq are dwindling fast. The country's prime minister has thrown in his lot with al-Sadr, our mortal enemy. He has his eye on the future, and he's betting that we won't last. The police are less accountable than they were under Saddam. Our extensive investment in Iraqi law enforcement only produced death squads. Government ministers loot the country to strengthen their own factions. Even Iraq's elections — a worthy experiment — further divided Iraq along confessional and ethnic lines. Iraq still exists on the maps, but in reality it's gone. Only a military coup — which might come in the next few years — could hold the artificial country together...

For us, Iraq's impending failure is an embarrassment. For the Iraqis — and other Arabs — it's a disaster the dimensions of which they do not yet comprehend. They're gleeful at the prospect of America's humiliation. But it's their tragedy, not ours.

Iraq was the Arab world's last chance to board the train to modernity, to give the region a future, not just a bitter past. The violence staining Baghdad's streets with gore isn't only a symptom of the Iraqi government's incompetence, but of the comprehensive inability of the Arab world to progress in any sphere of organized human endeavor. We are witnessing the collapse of a civilization. All those who rooted for Iraq to fail are going to be chastened by what follows.

Iraq still deserves one last chance — as long as we don't confuse deadly stubbornness and perseverance. If, at this late hour, Iraqis in decisive numbers prove willing to fight for their own freedom and a constitutional government, we should be willing to remain for a generation. If they continue to revel in fratricidal slaughter, we must leave...

11-08-2006, 09:55 AM
8 November Los Angeles Times commentary - Many Dead Ends in Iraq (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-boot8nov08,0,3248142.column?coll=la-opinion-rightrail) by Max Boot.

... Tuesday's election results will no doubt reinforce attempts to find an exit strategy from this mess. Various face-saving options have been proposed to accomplish this elusive end: Strike a deal with Iraqi political factions on key issues, such as sharing oil revenues. Reach an accommodation with Iraq's neighbors, particularly Iran and Syria. Divide the country into separate Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni zones. Keep the country whole but replace its infirm democracy with a vigorous dictator.

Given how dire the situation has become, no option can be ruled out, but we should not fool ourselves that any of these plans has much chance of success. All founder on the fact of the radical atomization of Iraqi society. Central authority is disintegrating. It's ethnic group versus ethnic group, tribe versus tribe, village versus village, block versus block, family versus family.

Even major militia leaders like Muqtada Sadr and Abdelaziz Hakim don't control many of those who fight in their name. The Iraqi security forces have shown themselves too weak and too divided to stop the sectarian bloodbath, and American troops are too few in number. And each new murder creates fresh vendettas that make it harder to get the situation under control.

The ongoing mayhem makes a mockery of attempts to cut a political deal. Even if the politicos in Baghdad could reach agreement (unlikely), they could not deliver their followers. No one would trust anyone else to disarm. Iraq has a chicken-and-egg problem: No security progress is possible without political progress, but no political progress is possible without security progress.

Iran and Syria couldn't be very helpful even if they wanted to — which they don't. (They're happy to watch the U.S. bleed.) They can add fuel to the fire, but they can't extinguish it. A division of Iraq into three ethnic enclaves wouldn't solve the problem because figuring out who gets what would multiply the bloodletting, and even then you would be left with numerous groups within the Sunni and Shiite regions competing for power at the point of a gun.

It would be nice if a benign dictator — Saddam Lite — could bring order out of chaos. But how would a putative strongman enforce his writ? Saddam Hussein's security services no longer exist, and any attempt to reconstitute them would meet staunch resistance from the Shiites and Kurds. The existing army and police are inadequate to the task, no matter who holds power in Baghdad.

The only real hope of restoring order in the short term is to send American reinforcements. Unfortunately, pacifying the entire country would probably require 400,000 to 500,000 troops, an obvious nonstarter. A smaller number — 25,000 to 50,000 — might suffice to control Baghdad, but, in the current political climate, it seems unlikely that even that many will be sent. A few thousand extra troops won't make much difference.

Bad as the situation is today, it could get a lot worse if we simply pull out. The probable result might be labeled "civil war," but it would bear scant resemblance to our own Civil War. It wouldn't be two sides fighting one another; it would be a war of all against all...