Thursday, January 11, 2007
The Bush plan for Iraq: What you should expect
Last night as I listened to the panels of talking heads trotted out to critique the Bush plan for Iraq, I began to wonder if we had heard the same speech. All the talk concerned whether the escalation would "work,"—usually without spelling out a goal—and some complained that there was no strategy. Not one of these so-called analysts appeared to get the point of the "plan," so let me help.
Neocon objective in Iraq: To achieve a government stable enough to permit oil contracts with the great Western petroleum corporations to be written and enforced.1 The key is to achieve a government accorded international legitimacy, especially by governments of the Middle East. This in turn implies a government that will include the Sunnis, who must be offered incentives to endure Shia dominance. At the moment this is the Maliki government.2
Strategy: Though they're not saying so publicly the administration recognizes that the principal threat to achieving this objective is not al-Qaeda. They've decided to focus instead on Muqtada al Sadr, who wants anything American out of Iraq, including the oil companies.3 So no more pussyfooting. This time Bush proposes to take Sadr and his Mahdi Army head on.4
Tactics: Brute force. Send 20,000 more troops, principally into Sadr City and wherever else Sadr loyalists may be found and root them out. The gloves are off.5
Analysis: It is unlikely that the Bushies can be prevented by the Congress from escalating troop levels. But it probably does not matter so far as the strategy and tactics are concerned.
I suspect that the Bushies view the coming conflict in somewhat apocalyptic terms—not unlike what Hitler felt in those last days in the bunker when he was deploying phantom panzer divisions. As far as the effort in Iraq goes, the Bushies may well view this as the Final Battle.
To that end, they intend to get nasty. It appears that they hope to bring the Sunni experience in Fallujah to the Shia of Sadr City! Cheney's still running this show and there's no horror he's not willing to visit upon a civilian population.
We are about to witness Americans fighting a guerilla war within the confines of a major capital city of what used to be a relatively advanced country! Has such a war ever been fought?
This is the plan that the Presidential Fool has announced, and all the commentators I've heard either fail to get the point or are afraid to discuss what they heard. To understand the import of the speech, they would have to acknowledge the administration's true goal. Instead the commentators accept the administration's rhetoric of establishing a democracy in Iraq, when they speak of an endpoint at all.
And the chances of success? To defeat the Sadr Army and bring an end to the civil war? Less than none. If we are not the Great Satan, we are certainly the Great Destabilizer.
For whatever promises of support the Bushies have exacted from the Maliki government and for whatever assurances of a "free rein" they have coerced from that government, those promises and assurances will not hold once the carnage begins.6 Either the Maliki government will literally disintegrate, putting an official stamp on the reality that Iraq is a failed state, or it will align itself with its Shiite base and attempt to order the U.S. to stop the assault.
It is at this point that I can agree with some commentators that the Bush plan has the seed of an exit strategy. If Maliki should end up siding with the Sadrists and order a halt to the mayhem, the Bushies could declare the Iraqis to be ungrateful bastards for all we've done for them and announce that we will take our toys and go home. I do not believe, however, that is their current intent.
For warriors marching to the Final Battle, who hear the clarion calls of Götterdamerung, the notion of withdrawal is truly unthinkable. Such thoughts themselves are, well, emasculating—even a bit effeminate—and should not be thought (or printed, or discussed). What is needed here is a mighty thrust.
Bush and Cheney are girding their loins for this one. Count on it.
Why isn't the press defending freedom of the press? (6/16/04)
Why isn't the press defending freedom of the press? (Revisited) (6/21/04)
Allawi stands up for freedom of the press — Yeah, sure (7/19/04)
The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together.
But alas no. Now we must secure those oil revenues as a move in the "War on Terror"—
The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions.... For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.
2Here was the promise to the Sunnis—
To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend 10 billion dollars of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws — and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.
The Bushies would give just about anything right now for an America-friendly dictator who could reunify Iraq, and they would surely sacrifice not only Maliki but the whole constitutional framework of government to achieve it. Unfortunately the only person who even comes close to possessing that kind of power is not America-friendly. [back]
3To lay the groundwork for the confrontation with the Shia Bush makes what I believe is a new assertion in his speech: that al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents acted together to blow up the al-Askari Mosque in February 2006—
Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause.... They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra — in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.
4This will certainly not be the first attempt to dispose of Muqtada al-Sadr. The first well-publicized confrontation came with the decision to shut down his newspaper in Baghdad, which led to the first Shia uprising.
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.
Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents — but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence [Sadr City]. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods — and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.[back]
I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. 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. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: "The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation."