Saturday, May 05, 2007

It's Not When to End the Iraq Occupation, But How

Would Neo-NeoConsevativism equal realpolitik?
Francis Fukuyama is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the author of "America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy."

Fukuyama has, in the past, been considered neoconservative. I think he was a founding member of the infamous Project for the New American Century (PNAC). He is also an author of a PNAC letter to Bush after 9-11, calling for regime change in Baghdad "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack(s)" on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Before the first year of Bush's illegal, un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (IUULUIUOI) was up, Fukuyama began to have second and third thoughts. According to Wikipedia,
he drifted from the neoconservative agenda, which he felt had become overly militaristic and based on muscular, unilateral armed intervention to further democratization within authoritarian regimes (particularly in the Middle East). By late 2003, when it became apparent that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was failing, Fukuyama withdrew his support and called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense. He said that he would vote against Bush in the 2004 election and said Bush made some major mistakes:
  1. The threat of radical Islam to the US was overestimated.
  2. The Bush administration didn't foresee the fierce negative reaction to its benevolent hegemony.
  3. From the very beginning it showed a negative attitude towards the United Nations and other international organizations and didn't see that this would increase anti-Americanism in other countries.
  4. The Bush administration misjudged what was needed to bring peace in Iraq and was overly optimistic about the success with which social engineering of Western values could be applied to Iraq and the Middle East in general.
In the Los Angeles Times this morning, Fukuyama writes that it is no longer a question of if or when the U.S. leaves Iraq, but how. He takes note that there already have been nodes presenting us with opportunities to disengage from occupation:
In more than four years of war, there have been countless turning points at which we were led to expect decisive political progress in Iraq:
  • the capture of Saddam Hussein (December 2003);

  • the turnover of sovereignty (June 2004);

  • elections for the constituent assembly (January 2005); elections to ratify the constitution (August 2005);

  • elections for the Iraqi parliament (December 2005).
Fukuyama thinks that in excusing ourselves from Bush's legacy of a perpetual occupation of Iraq, we will be worse off than we were in Vietnam:
The situation today is in some ways much worse than the one faced by President Nixon in Vietnam 35 years ago. At that time, South Vietnam had an army with a paper strength of 1 million men that, despite its problems, was able hold on for three years after the U.S. withdrew its ground forces. The South Vietnamese army provided Henry Kissinger with his "decent interval" between the U.S. withdrawal and South Vietnam's collapse. . . . Nothing like that exists or will exist in Iraq for the politically meaningful future. . . . Serious training of Iraqi forces started late and never received adequate funding or top-level attention, despite the fact that Petraeus was at the helm of the training effort in recent years. The South Vietnamese army may have been nothing to write home about in 1972, but we are extremely unlikely to have an Iraqi equivalent by the end of 2007.
Fukuyama argues that the dynamics of the occupation vs insurgency vs sectarian civil war is not going to be materially improved by surging. He says the debate should change from surging vs withdrawal to how to withdraw:
. . . .about how to draw down our forces in a way that minimizes the costs that will inevitably accompany our loss of control.

The questions we need to address include:
  1. How do we reconfigure our forces to provide advice, training and support, rather than engaging in combat?
  2. How we can withdraw safely without a serious Iraqi army to cover our retreat?
  3. How will we dismantle enormous bases like Camp Liberty or Camp Victory and protect the diminishing numbers of U.S. troops in the country?
  4. Do we trust the Iraqi military and police sufficiently to turn over our equipment to them?
  5. How do we protect the lives of those who collaborated with us? The images of South Vietnamese allies hanging to the skid pads of U.S. helicopters departing Saigon should be burned into our memories.
  6. And what if the weak Iraqi government we leave behind falls or other political crises occur when we have fewer U.S. troops to respond?
  7. Can we work with proxies, resources or arms supplies to shape outcomes?
In terms of regional adjustments in international politics, Fukuyama says things are not necessarily as grim as they were in Vietnam:
As we draw down, the civil war is likely to intensify, and the focus of our efforts will have to shift to containing it within Iraq's borders. Preventing intervention by outside forces will become an even more urgent priority.

On the other hand, it is not necessarily the case that the situation will spiral out of control. Although the situation is graver in some ways than Vietnam, in others it is better. Although we have no equivalent to a South Vietnamese army, the enemy has no equivalent of the North Vietnamese army. It is hard to see any of the small factions struggling for power in different parts of the country emerging as a dominant force throughout Iraq.
Neo-Neo-Conservative Fukuyama ends on a realpolitik note:
The presence of U.S. forces has itself been a spur to terrorist recruitment, but as it becomes clear that we are on our way out, it will be easier for Iraqi nationalists to turn against the foreign jihadists (as they have already begun to do in Al Anbar province).

An intensifying civil war will be a tragedy for Iraq, but it is not the worst outcome from a U.S. standpoint to have a number of bitterly anti-American groups duking it out among themselves.

Civil wars eventually come to an end when one side wins (unlikely, in this case) or when the parties exhaust themselves and drop their maximalist aims.
As I have said before, we have to think outside of Bush and Cheney's box before we can dig our way out of their tunnel.