"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How not to get out of Iraq, by Max Boot

Here's a little gem by Max Boot on what might actually happen in Iraq under various withdrawal scenarios. Unlike many critics who simply say "bring the troops home now" without any elaboration on just how that would work or what the consquences might look like, Mr. Boot analyzes and fleshes out our different options, with the varying levels of bloodshed each would entail. The bottom line is that the surge is the "least bad" option we have right now; more than that, it's the only one that could actually lead to an acceptable end game for us. It deserves a chance to work.

1 comment:

Ammianus Marcellinus said...

Good article; thorough, lengthy and pretty fair-minded. I would say my one primary objection has to do with his dismissal of the option of partition on what amount to two critiques; one, that it would result in sectarian violence and be messy and two, that Iraqis don't want it to happen. I also think that, in discussing the successes of the surge he manages to brush under a rug the problem with some of our successes relative to our long-term, supposed objective. I'm a fan of partition myself, with an over-the-horizon forced based in Kuwait & Kurdistan as the redeployment endgame.

In terms of looking at the partition, he correctly notes the ISG's analysis that describes the difficulty inherent in splitting up Iraq, to which I would say: so what? I don't think we should arbitrarily delineate the borders for the proposed ministates, I think we should announce that, beginning on such and such a date, we will no longer be providing military support for the Iraqi government. The divisions that arise may be more than three, and there will likely be considerable violence, but again, in terms of our policy objectives in the region, that's not the worst possible outcome (slogging along whistling by the graveyard is among the less desirable outcomes). The forces, probably 50-70,000, in Kuwait and Kurdistan (which is almost guaranteed to be a pretty functional state after about, oh, say two minutes after we leave), could keep an eye on Iranian influence and prevent Al Qaeada in Iraq from gaining a foothold. If one of the ministates is a fundamentalist, extremist Islamic state; well, bully for them. Our policy goals in the region are best served by putting as much distance between ourselves and this fiasco as possible and marshalling resources to deal with things like Waziristan and Iran. The plight of the Iraqi people, while likely sad, is not the primary concern of our policies.

My second objection is that the poll that Boot cites is used pretty selectively; sure, neither the Shi'ites or the Sunnis want to split up Iraq, but I doubt they want to be the ones being governed. To put it another way, 64% of Iraqis want Iraq to be whole and under the rule of their respective sectarian group. I'm sure, had they been asked, Sunnis would have responded negatively to the possibility of Shi'ite rule and vice versa. If the Iraqi people really wanted a united single country, then sectarian violence wouldn't be tearing their country into bits and pieces.

My last objection is relatively small, but I think Boot is disingenuous in discussing the progress of the surge. The particular quote that bothers me is as follows "Time and again in Iraq, we have seen that substantial ground forces, if properly employed, can indeed rout terrorists.". That's well and good, but the problem in Iraq is not fighting terrorists; the problem in Iraq is that the Sunnis don't like the Shi'ites who don't like the Kurds who don't like DAWA who doesn't like SCIRI who doesn't like the Sunni chieftains who don't like Al Qaeada in Iraq. If our goal is to get these groups (exempting AQI) into a stable, single, secular, democratic state, then the surge really isn't doing much to improve that. The cooperation of the Sunni tribes has been almost entirely exclusive of the participation of the Iraqi government. The Shi'ite head of state went to IRAN and told off the President at a press conference. Allawi is lobbying for the US to topple the democratically elected Shi'ites. This mess is somehow fixed by the fact that we've routed AQI in six of eighteen provinces??? The solution to our situation in Iraq is resolving the political future of the area that is Iraq. Our ability to impact that effectively with the troops on hand is minimal. Our presence there does nothing to further our interests in that regard. Adjusting our military deployment accordingly should seem to follow.