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May 03, 2004

Whither Iraq? « GWOT »

The inimitable Glenn Reynolds rounds up some opinions on Iraq for us.

I agree with the main thrust, that we've got to get Iraq right, we can't afford to get this one wrong.

Here's a link to another view...including links to still other views

I agree with that because cleaning up/clearing out Iraq was a major step in the Global War on Terror. Afghanistan was the first step. Iraq, far from being a dstraction in the War on Terror, was an excellent second step that has already reaped substantial benefits in Libya, the Levant, and even Iran. These benefits far outweigh some of the setbacks like the Madrid bombing and the April insurgency crest...however, these certainly are setbacks.

The only thing is, I don't agree with the people who say we are being too soft on Iraq. I don't agree at all.

We aren't going to defeat the Iraqis, and we aren't going to defeat Islamic Extremists/Al Qaida adjuncts. The more people we kill, the more people will resist. Iraq is a perfect example of leading a horse to water but not being able to make them drink. They are a skittish wild animal that will balk at whatever we try to force them to do...rather, we need to coax them. What we need to do is clearly and consistently demonstrate that there is no payoff for terrorist actions.

That means not overreacting to provocations.

Why is that so important? Because we have several different groups at work there: Sunnis, Shias (or Shi'ites, if you prefer) following Sistani, Shias following Muqtada al-Sadr, Islamic religious mercenaries (paid in martyrdom and glory rather than coin), and terrorists. There's a nice little power struggle going on between these groups, and everyone is trying to play one off against the other. Sistani could have squashed Muqtada al-Sadr like a grape...but chose to let him be a thorn in our side to try and win greater concessions. But there's a dang good chance we didn't smash the insurgency in Fallujah to send a message to Sistani that we can handle certain levels of localized chaos for long periods of time and thus don't need his help if the price is too high. Further, showing restraint in not pounding Fallujah into sand helped prevent the insurgency from spreading...and yet the insurgents lost quite a significant portion of their manpower and firepower because we killed them every time they attempted to engage us.

And still, and still...I've said before, and I'll repeat: the key to resolving the Iraq problem and being able to depart is getting the Iraqis to stand up and police/guard themselves. They haven't shown the courage to do so...yet. But I don't think there is any genetic weakness on their part, merely a conditioned reluctance to risk their own necks. That's why the negotiated cessation of combat in Fallujah is so important: we give the Iraqis a chance to keep the peace and combat the terrorism in their own country with a hand-picked Brigade. I don't think the Iraqis will tolerate the insurgents killing Iraqi troops. I don't know if the Brigade will actually stay the course, or be effective in cleaning out Fallujah or preventing further forays out by the insurgents. But if they fail, then we can level Fallujah. On the other hand, I have hope that this will be successful. There are indications that Iraqi tribal leaders are growing sick of Muqtada al-Sadr and are checking around to see if anyone would mind them solving the situation...if they do, it will be an Iraqi resolution to the problem, and won't result in an uprising.

It is also important to remember, as Glenn points out: there are large sections of Iraq where there are no difficulties at all. This is roughly equivalent to a riot in LA happening at the same time as massive flooding in Sacramento and a wildfire threatening San Diego (remember, Iraq is as big as California...). And less than a year after Saddam was toppled, before the Iraqis have taken the first step toward self-rule, they have endure two major simultaneous body blows in the month of April without descending into chaos or civil war.

I know, there's still time for either one. But each day the fledgling nation doesn't collapse is a victory for stability. Oil production exceeds pre-war levels, power generation/distribution and water purification also exceed pre-war levels, and are quickly approaching 100% of demand...and the economy there continues to improve.

Let's see what happens in Fallujah over the next month...I'm betting the handover still occurs without major incident, after which the Iraqis will have more reason to fight for their own nation....and the problems start disappearing.

But we'll see. I admit it probably won't be that easy.

Posted by Nathan at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)
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