Friday, August 24, 2007

In Defense of Incoherence

A few thoughts on the situation in Iraq - both domestic and imported. First, some pricey imports. Jim Henley on the civil war waiting game:

Most civil wars eventually end, so the Beltway Consensus intends to ride the Iraqi one out. Assuming it concludes, whoever’s in charge can declare victory, as if the whole point of invading Iraq was to eventually “end” the civil war that would break out as a result of the invasion. The whole course of events will have made a mockery of every public justification for the war in the first place. The only way anyone could declare it a “victory” would be if, after all, the aim of being in Iraq was simply to be in Iraq. Which is to say, if we end up with a basing agreement after an eventual armistice, the real purpose of the war will have been served. It just happens that they could never have convinced the country to waste thousands of American and millions of Iraqi lives (counting the refugees) and hundreds of billions of dollars on building some new forts where they’re not wanted. Which is why they didn’t sell the war on that basis. [emphasis added]

Mark Kleiman (via Matt Y) on the futility of waiting out the civil war:

More Iraqis will probably die of violence just after a U.S. withdrawal than are dying violently now....

But that's not a good enough reason to hang around, unless at some point it stops being true: that six months, or a year, or two years, or five years from now we would be able to withdraw and not have civil war and massacre follow. If we're spending blood and treasure only to postpone a catastrophe we can't prevent, the "humanitarian" argument against a fairly rapid withdrawal collapses.

Greg Djerejian on how we are likely amplifying the intensity of the civil war (see also, Matt at the link above):

It's grossly negligent (at best) that American kids are dying for strategic incoherence on such an epic scale. If I were a diplomat at the State Department, I'd probably resign in protest rather than continue to serve an Administration bleeding American lives so irresponsibly. Arming Sunni militias (sorry, Concerned Citizens Programmes) rather than the National Army, as nascent and pitiable as this last is, will almost certainly lead to more intensified Sunni--Shi'a fighting. Meantime, these bolstered Sunni forces (some of them simply ex-Baathists we supposedly went in to topple) will eventually be fighting for primacy against the very Government we've been trying to prop up in Baghdad. I find this mind-boggling in its short-sightedness and lack of overarching strategic direction (unless we've truly become Machiavellian, and are plotting to return the Sunnis to power to contain Iran!) [emphasis added]

That last bit from Greg D has been an increasing concern. At the very least, arming Sunnis is a way of attempting to counter Iranian influence in Iraq itself - even if the Bush team isn't planning on going all the way with Saddam 2 - Baathist Boogaloo. Should the Sunnis prove to be not coup-worthy (or capable) the up-armed insurgents would be more adept at attacking Iran's proxies in Iraq (ISCI, Dawa, Sadr) which could be perceived as a net positive for some in the Bush White House.

The problem with this strategy, of course, is that those targeted groups are also our proxies in Iraq (with the exception of Sadr). So even if there is a purpose or aim here (countering Iran) it is still not a coherent policy, since we are simultaneously aiding and combating Iran's proxies (who are our proxies).

There is one way this contradiction could be resolved (as alluded to by Djerejian): If this recent Sunni tilt is really the opening foray in the effort to lay the groundwork for a wholesale abandonment of the UIA constituent parties as some sort of precursor or adjunct to a war with Iran.

I actually prefer the incoherence.

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