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Thread: "Our Only Hope"

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default "Our Only Hope"

    9 January Wall Street Journal commentary - "Our Only Hope" by Eliot Cohen and Bing West.

    President Bush has appointed a new Iraq team, including one of our best counterinsurgency generals, David Petraeus, to take command in Iraq; he is also about to unveil a new Iraq strategy. The apparent problem is uncontrolled sectarian violence in Baghdad and the apparent solution is to send more American soldiers to restore order. The actual problem is a dysfunctional, sectarian Iraqi political system. Here at home, the imminent debate between the Congress and the administration about the number of American forces is a diversion. We may need more resources, but first we need a strategy.

    President Bush faces a difficult strategic choice. First, he can continue to play defense and send in more troops to undertake tasks approved by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The intent is to buy another year during which a nonsectarian Iraqi government will pull itself together. It is difficult to see how it will. Alternatively, he can adopt an offensive strategy with clear benchmarks, strengthening Iraqi security forces while imprisoning Sunni insurgents and Shiite death squads. The risk is that Mr. Maliki may refuse to cooperate, forcing us to walk away. In sum, what lies before the administration is a final strategic choice, after a series of large and consequential failures...

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    As part of its Decision 2008 series, CSIS brought together members of the prestigious House Armed Services Committee (HASC) to discuss their agenda for Iraq in the 110th Congress. Participants were:

    * Representative Ike Skelton (D-MO), chair, HASC
    * Representative Jim Marshall (D-GA), HASC
    * Representative Jim Saxton (R-NJ), HASC
    * Representative "Mac" Thornberry (R-TX), HASC


    Dr. John Hamre, president and CEO of CSIS, introduced the participants. Ray DuBois, a senior adviser at CSIS, moderated the event.
    Here's the transcript: The Way Forward in Iraq

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Interesting to read West's own article in the Atlantic Monthly: "Streetwise"

    Abizaid’s deadline for Maliki to take on the militias runs out between February and April. What happens, I asked a senior American general in Iraq, if Maliki doesn’t exert leadership? “Then,” the general said, “we continue muddling through.”

    In 1979, President Carter dispatched a U.S. Army general to Tehran to tell the Iranian army not to interfere as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini swept into power on a tide of popular support. Khomeini returned the favor by seizing the U.S. embassy and establishing an anti-American theocracy.

    If Maliki continues to fail, President Bush will face a similar choice: insist on a democracy that has failed or signal that military rule behind a rubber-stamp assembly is preferable to collapse.

    Muddling through is not a strategy.
    West seems to be arguing here for a joint Iraqi-U.S. military dictatorship/coup in Iraq. Anyone here remember Ngo Dinh Diem?

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    It's an ugly situation right now, especially if al-Maliki turns out to be lying and has no intention of actually allowing us to go after al-Sadr. Muddling through by accepting the Iraqi government's unwillingness/inability to stop al-Sadr won't bring the Sunnis around to accepting al-Maliki's government, which will insure that the insurgency will continue. Supporting a government that allows ethnic cleansing to take place under its defacto protection will in essence mean that we're taking the side of the Shi'a in the sectarian conflcit (and all that entails). And bumping al-Maliki out of power is a useless move unless there's someone demonstrably better to replace him with, who the three major ethnic groups would be able to accept...which there apparently isn't. It's worth keeping in mind that neither the fall of the Shah nor Diem ended up helping us, so removing al-Maliki is no guarantee of a favorable result for us.

    It's feeling more and more like this is a war with no possible upside to us anywhere, and I wonder if there's really anything that we can accomplish there anymore or if we'd just be better off letting Iraq's neighboring countries hash it out without our involvement. It might hurt us in the short term, but in the long run might withdrawal now actually be more beneficial?

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    Council Member jonSlack's Avatar
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    Default ABC News: Iraq Troop Surge Begins

    ABC News: Iraq Troop Surge Begins

    Under the new plan, the city of Baghdad will be divided into nine separate sections at the request of Iraqis who want one Army and police battalion devoted to section.

    ....

    In a switch from the current course of action, these U.S. forces will be housed in the very neighborhoods they patrol. Military planners tell ABC News there will eventually be about 30 mini-bases, called joint security stations, scattered around Baghdad housing both U.S. and Iraqi troops.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    West seems to be arguing here for a joint Iraqi-U.S. military dictatorship/coup in Iraq. Anyone here remember Ngo Dinh Diem?
    I don't think West is argueing for a dictatorship or a coup. I think he is argueing for establishing a legal environment appropriate to the situation.

    If I remember Thompson correctly, he stated that the small war must be fought in accordance with the law; BUT, the law can be changed to fit the situation. And the situation as described in West's article will not controlled with the law as it presently exists in Iraq.
    Last edited by SWCAdmin; 01-11-2007 at 11:59 AM. Reason: inserted quote tags

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    Default Amen

    Carl, you're absolutely right about this, and I mentioned this on another post recently. If we have this level of chaos in the U.S., such as rioting, post earthquake/hurricane, etc. we have the option, and have declared martial law in order to control the situation. Our current legal system couldn't manage this level of chaos, and we have a mature system. How the heck do we expect Iraqis to manage chaos on steroids with an immature legal system? The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, and if that means takes draconian (don't translate as Stalin or Mao population control measures) measures (temporarily), then that is what needs to be done.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    I don't know about that. The words "a democracy that has failed" and "military rule behind a rubber-stamp assembly is preferable to collapse" seem to indicate to me thoughts of a coup by the Army in order to implement exactly those measures you guys are talking about.

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    Default No Three Wise Strong Men

    The weak Maliki can't be replaced with a triumvirate of 3 strong men from each ethnic group, that's for sure. The only option it seems is to neutralize al sadr by telling him to stand down completely or be taken out, thus giving Maliki some real power and allowing more focus to be put on the sunni terrorists to quell them in Anbar and Baghdad.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Shades of Diem, anyone? I'm not a big fan of drawing exact parallels, but this does sound rather familiar.

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    Al-Maliki can't allow al-Sadr to be taken out and maintain control. Al-Sadr's voting block is what allows al-Maliki to hold onto his job. If he loses al-Sadr's supporters, he loses his job (and probably his life). To say nothing of the apparent infiltration of the police forces (the guys our President wants to rely on) by al-Sadr's people. Even if al-Maliki is willing to confront al-Sadr, he hasn't got the ability to do it with the current system of government. And if he doesn't remove al-Sadr, there's no way he can stop the sectarian violence because his efforts won't have legitimacy with the Sunnis or us.

    This plan is inherently flawed.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Maybe West is advocating a sort of coup to get what needs to be done, done. But rather than an action along the lines of "Diem"; perhaps something along the lines of what happened next door to Iraq is comtemplated.

    The Turkish Army took over the country at least twice that I know of in order restore a workable political situation. Then they gave up the power. The question is: Can the American/Iraqi Armies do the same thing?

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default No Ataturk in Iraq

    Maybe West is advocating a sort of coup to get what needs to be done, done. But rather than an action along the lines of "Diem"; perhaps something along the lines of what happened next door to Iraq is comtemplated.

    The Turkish Army took over the country at least twice that I know of in order restore a workable political situation. Then they gave up the power. The question is: Can the American/Iraqi Armies do the same thing?
    Short answer: NO

    The reason the Turkish Military can do that deal with the traditions of Ataturk and the role of the Military in preserving those traditions. There is no parallel to Ataturk in modern Iraqi history or even Arab history for that matter. And the Iraqi Army has never had the primacy of place in institutions the way the Turkish military has enjoyed.

    best

    Tom

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    I think West has the Turkish Army example in mind --- I doubt he would proclaim that Iraqis require a military dictatorship forever, for instance. But I agree with Tom Odom that the Iraqi Army, especially as constituted, is nothing at all like the Turkish Army. The IA is functionally dependent on Coalition Forces for its day-to-day operations and any political move it made would be instantly construed by all the various Iraqi publics as being U.S.-inspired. No Iraqi nationalist in good conscience would, IMO, support such a move the way Turkish nationalists, for instance, could possibly support a similar intervention by the Turkish Army that is free from dependence on foreign backers.

    Tom, would you say that Egypt once had a similar movement in the 1952 Revolution led by the Free Officers?

    edit: Just noted from the NYT:

    “If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people,” Mr. Bush declared.

    He put it far more bluntly when leaders of Congress visited the White House earlier on Wednesday. “I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,” the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Bush shot back: “Because it has to.”
    Last edited by tequila; 01-11-2007 at 07:31 PM. Reason: addition

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Parallels Yes; Same No

    Tom, would you say that Egypt once had a similar movement in the 1952 Revolution led by the Free Officers?
    Although there are parallels, the rise of Ataturk in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; his military record against the Allies--especially at Gallipoli; his defeat of the Greeks as they attempted to carve up Turkey; his will power in divorcing Turkish civil authority from the clerics; and his imprint on the Turkish military that they are the guarantors of his legacy are without peer in the Arab World.

    There is no doubt that Nasser sought to become the Arab Ataturk; and in some ways he achieved it and failed miserably in others. He successfully thumbed his nose at the Brits and French in 56 when he took over the Suez Canal. That he needed US support along with Soviet threats to make the Brits, French, and Israelis abandon the scheme of the 56 War suggested he was not an Ataturk. His dismal failure in 67 only confirmed it.

    I guess if I was looking for an Arab "Ataturk" I would have to say Salah ad-Din--and he was a Kurd.

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    I guess if I was looking for an Arab "Ataturk" I would have to say Salah ad-Din--and he was a Kurd.
    Good parallel, Tom. Just one question... Didn't he (and his father) gain their popularity on a platform of expelling the Infidel? So, unless we can construct al Maliki as aimed at the AQ/MB infidel (and the coalition as nice, helpful people who will leave soon), I suspect that analog won't work <wry grin>.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    I'm something of a Crusades buff ... I'd say that Saladin did seek to legitimize his rule partially on a religious basis through the expulsion of the Crusaders, but that part is greatly emphasized largely by Christian and Western chroniclers. Just as or more important in domestic Muslim eyes at the time was his final coup de grace to the Ismaili Shia Fatimid caliphate in Egypt, returning those lands to Sunni rule.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default No Salah ad-Din Either

    Correct on the Fatimids and Salah ad-Din.

    And yes Marc he did gain fame in Western eyes (more after the fact) by his defeat of the Crusaders, especially the retaking of Jerusalem.

    By in raising Salah ad-Din, my paralllel was with Ataturk in pulling together a disastrously collapsed Ottoman Empire, focusing it on preserving the nation-state of Turkey, and limiting the role of Islam within that society. The "cult of Salah ad-Din" to date still looks on him as the warrior savior just as the Turks look on Ataturk.

    As for Malaki, there simply is no comparison and that was my point: there is no central figure on the scene who can pull it together. That was the issue with the Arab Revolt at its end; the British solution was of course to import Hashemite sons into Iraq and Jordan to give them enough legitimacy to rule. The Jordan model succeeded; Iraq ultimately failed.

    Best

    Tom

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