Friday, September 21, 2007
Hegemony in Reverse
I found James Dobbins the most interesting speaker (including myself). Drawing on his own long experience as a diplomat and as a student of interventions, he argued forcefully for a version of the Iraq Study Group's 'diplomatic surge' which would bring all of Iraq's neighbors into a Dayton-like (or Bonn-like) conference. The US brought Milosevic and Tudjman to Dayton knowing perfectly well the amount of blood on their hands and the boost it would give to their domestic political fortunes, because that was the only way to end the violence - and it worked. He argued that no civil war can ever be resolved if the country's neighbors don't want it to be resolved; the US can either contain Iran or stabilize Iraq, but it can't have both.
At the end, I elaborated on Dobbins' Dayton example by suggesting an alternative lesson of the Anbar model which is rarely discussed. After years of failed warfare against the Sunni insurgency, the US decided to talk with and then cooperate with "former" insurgents with a lot of American blood on their hands. They discovered that it worked (at least for the short term). It's ironic that the same people who currently most vigorously defend the "Anbar Model" of working with these "former insurgents" usually strongly oppose any serious dialogue with Syria or Iran. If there's one good thing which could come out of the current American Sunni strategy in Iraq, perhaps it will be the recognition that talking to one's enemies can sometimes have positive results. [emphasis added]
No, you can't have both can you, nor can you have stability absent regional engagement. I'm just afraid that a choice may be in the offing, which will lead to catastrophic results. Then again, no choice will lead to more unthinkable suffering as well.
Andrew Sullivan has an appropriately snarky run down of the debacle stemming from the attempt to have cake and eat it:
It's back to the 1980s. Instead of backing Saddam against Iran, we're now in danger of backing the Iraqi Sunnis, in league with Egypt and Saudi Arabia ... against Iran The border of the conflict has simply moved from the Iraq-Iran border to the middle of Iraq. And this time, we have 160,000 soldiers trapped in the middle. Yay! Just because it is hard to imagine how the situation in Iraq could get worse doesn't mean that Cheney isn't figuring out ways to do it. He's got more than a year to foment more chaos and bloodshed and sectarian hatred and anti-American hatred. Give him time.
Henley returns the volley:
Which means, if you want to get all grand-strategic about it, the American political class, genus GOP, species Committee on the Present Danger, has simply, in 25 years, lost half a country’s worth of ground in the so-called War with Iran that began in 1979. Heckuva job, hegemonists!
Speaking of blundering, incoherent hegemonists, Greenwald has a bit of fun with one here. And just think, these guys were supposed to be the grown-ups, The Vulcans, the wise and competent set that was going to show the country how to run a masterful foreign policy, unlike the dread Clinton administration. The incalculable tragedy is the only thing that undercuts the humor.