Thursday, February 08, 2007

Light at the End of the Tunnel

To Help Iraq, Let It Fend for Itself.

Get used to it: proposals for realistic solutions to Iraquagmire are going to start emerging faster than you imagine. They will not be painless for those bitter-enders who have been clinging on to George Bush's coat tails long after his trousers are shredded by the dogs of war - his useless and unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq. This pertains especially to the Republican members in Congress, desperate cling-ons who voted against their own anti-war resolutions.

Here's but today's example: Edward Luttwak, (whom I have posted before and will again), writes in the New York Times, To Help Iraq, Let It Fend for Itself. His is a specific proposal for immediate disengagement:
By this, I don’t mean a phased withdrawal, let alone the leap in the dark of total abandonment. Rather, it would start with a tactical change: American soldiers would no longer patrol towns and villages, conduct cordon-and-search operations, or man outposts and checkpoints. An end to these tasks would allow the greatest part of the troops in Iraq to head home, starting with overburdened reservists and National Guard units.

The remaining American forces, including ground units, would hole up within safe and mostly remote bases in Iraq — to support the elected government, deter foreign invasion, dissuade visible foreign intrusions, and strike at any large concentration of jihadis should it emerge. This would mean, contrary to most plans being considered now, that United States military personnel could not remain embedded in large numbers within the Iraqi Army and police forces. At most, the Americans would operate training programs within safe bases.
Luttwak says that human
intelligence is to counterinsurgency what firepower is to conventional warfare, and we just do not have it or the capacity to gather information on our own. Thus the sacrifices of our troops on the ground are mostly futile . . . .

The total number of American troops in Iraq — even including any surge — is so small, and their linguistic skills so limited, that they have little effect on day-to-day security. Nor have they really protected Iraqis from one another. At most, the presence of American soldiers in any one place merely diverts attacks elsewhere (unless they themselves are attacked, which is a sad way indeed of reducing Iraqi casualties).
Whenever we take offensive actions against one sectarian element or another, it is not understood by Iraqis as a peace-keeping measure; it is seen as taking sides. As I said before, there is no 'center' in Iraq to 'hold': Maliki is Bush's 'man in Baghdad', but he's not the man for Iraq. Luttwak says,
. . . . the prime minister would have to be a veritable Stalin or at least a Saddam Hussein, able to terrorize Iraqi soldiers and policemen into obedience. Mr. Maliki, of course, has no such authority over Iraqi soldiers or police officers; indeed he has little authority over his own 39-person cabinet, whose members mostly represent sectarian parties with militias of their own.
Iraq is fractured. Religious sects - Shi'ite and Sunni - are themselves fractured among different militias; the larger militias have their own schisms. With disengagement, Luttwak sees
. . . both Arab Sunnis and Shiites would have to take responsibility for their own security (as the Kurds have doing been all along). Where these three groups are not naturally separated by geography, they would be forced to find ways to stabilize relations with each other. That would most likely involve violence as well as talks, and some forcing of civilians from their homes. But all this is happening already, and there is no saying which ethno-religious group would be most favored by a reduction of the United States footprint.

One reason for optimism on that score is that the violence itself has been separating previously mixed populations, reducing motives and opportunities for further attacks. That is how civil wars can burn themselves out.

In any case, it is time for the Iraqis to make their own history.
I have to say at this point that there are only one or two obstacles blocking the light from end of this tunnel: Bush and his ringmaster, Cheney. Their shadow over our country is already receding, but their control over our ineffectual occupation of Iraq has to be actively repudiated, rescinded, revoked, repealed, removed.