Thursday, December 28, 2006

Stuck Between Iraq and a Hard Place

Or as Atrios sometimes puts it - "Iraq'd":

For Maj. William Voorhies, the American commander of the military training unit at the scene, the moment encapsulated his increasingly frustrating task — trying to build up Iraqi security forces who themselves are being used as proxies in a spreading sectarian war. This time, it was a Sunni politician — Vice Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie — but the more powerful Shiites interfered even more often.

“I have come to the conclusion that this is no longer America’s war in Iraq, but the Iraqi civil war where America is fighting,” Major Voorhies said.

A two-day reporting trip accompanying Major Voorhies’s unit and combat troops seemed to back his statement, as did other commanding officers expressing similar frustration.

“I have personally witnessed about a half-dozen of these incidents of what I would call political pressure, where a minister or someone from a minister’s office contacts one of these Iraqi commanders,” said Lt. Col. Steven Miska, the deputy commander for the Dagger Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division, who oversees combat operations in a wide swath of western Baghdad.

“These politicians are connected with either the militias or Sunni insurgents.”

Whatever plan the Bush administration unveils — a large force increase, a withdrawal or something in between — this country’s security is going to be left in the hands of Iraqi forces. Those forces, already struggling with corruption and infiltration, have shown little willingness to stand up to political pressure, especially when the Americans are not there to support them. That suggests, the commanders say, that if the Americans leave soon, violence will redouble. And that makes their mission, Major Voorhies and Colonel Miska say, more important than ever.

They added that while political pressure on the Iraqi Army is great, the influence exerted on the police force, which is much more heavily infiltrated by Shiite militia groups, is even greater.

Shiites, led by militia forces and often aided by the local police, are clearly ascendant, Colonel Miska said.

“It seems very controlled and deliberate and concentrated on expanding the area they control,” he said.

OK, so if we stay, we have to spend most of our time policing the Iraqi civil war, and if we leave, the Iraqi civil war will explode, helped by the infiltrated Iraqi army and police forces which we helped train and arm.

We're stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Will the expected troop surge of 20,000-30,000 additional American forces solve this dilemma?


The problem is primarily political now, not military. The time when additional American forces could have made things better was BEFORE the sectarian sides became so intractable in their revenge and power-grabs - and that time has passed.

How does a slightly larger American force put an end to the centuries-old political, ethnic and religious hatreds that Bush and Cheney helped unleash by taking down strongman Saddam?

The answer is simple - it doesn't.

So why send more troops?

The answer to that question is simple too - because the Bush administration can't think of anything else to do. The Joint Chiefs opposition to the surge plan, first reported in the Washington Post last week, came primarily because they believed that the administration was sending more troops to Iraq for political reasons here at home, not for political or military reasons that would help improve conditions in Iraq.

So again I ask - why send more troops?

I guess we must remember the first rule of the Bush administration - what is good for George W. Bush is good for America.

Bush needs a delaying action for the next two years. He needs to look like he's doing something to improve conditions in Iraq and help bring Americans home while he's REALLY running a holding pattern and waiting for the next president to come in and clean up and/or take the blame for his mess.

How would you feel if your kid/mother/daughter/father/son/husband/wife were sent to Baghdad to police the Iraqi civil war not to REALLY affect any positive change in the conditions on the ground but so George Bush can hang on to some hope that his presidential legacy (i.e. - two failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) will be shared by the next president who comes in '09?

And how would you feel if your kid/mother/daughter/father/son/husband/wife were to die while preforming Operation Save Preznut Bush's Presidential Legacy?

I know how I'd feel - like the preznut had committed murder.

It's one thing for a president to put the lives and health of American troops at risk for the national interest. It's another thing entirely for a preznut and vice preznut to put the lives and health of American troops at risk because they want to save "political face" for themselves or because they're too macho and stubborn to admit they were wrong.

And yet that's what we have happening right now - even after the American electorate delivered a strong anti-war message in the midterm election and only 11%-12% of the American public support the administration's rumored escalation plan for the war.

The shame of it is, this did not have to be. Back in 2002 and 2003, General Shinseki warned the administration not to undertake an invasion of Iraq without 500,000 troops to handle the post-invasion phase. Former Bush 41 and Ford adviser Brent Scowcroft warned the administration that taking out Saddam and rebuilding a nation in the Mideast would take massive amounts of troops, money and effort and might still not be possible to accomplish. Pundits like Pat Buchanan and George Will warned about the excesses of the American Empire (see Buchanan's December 20, 2006 column on the "hollow American Imperium" for where he thinks this Iraq war has brought the U.S.)

And yet, the administration followed it's own course and set in motion the chaos and carnage that is now Iraq. The U.S. would do well to learn from the mindless hubris and inane policies of this administration in order to avoid such foreign policy disasters in the future. As Pat Buchanan wrote this month:

The American Imperium is hollow. We have nowhere near the troops to sustain the security commitments and war guarantees we have ladled out. Like the Brits in 1945, ours is an overstretched empire with a sinking currency, whose enemies are salivating at the prospect of being in on the kill.

America may need a larger Army. More imperative is the need for a radical reduction in treaty and war commitments.

While the U.S. Navy and Air Force remain supreme, the Army and Marines are, as Abizaid says, too small a force to fight a long war. We must adjust our commitments to reflect our capabilities and, beyond that, to defend only what is truly vital to the national security.

While our armed forces are more than adequate to defend us, they are insufficient to defend an empire. Rather than bleed and bankrupt the nation endlessly, we should let go of the empire.

Americans must learn how to mind our own business and cease to meddle in other nation's quarrels. Iraq was never a threat to the United States. Only our mindless intervention has made it so.

Buchanan is right: we cannot police the world and certainly wouldn't be stuck in Iraq policing their civil war had the members of this administration given a little forethought to other outcomes for the war than their own rosy, overly-optimistic scenarios.

We must learn this lesson for the future.

We are already "Iraq'd" and there will be no good outcome from this war no matter what George Bush or the next president decides to do. The Sunni/Shia civil war is set in a motion and will play itself out whether we leave tomorrow or 2009. Tens of thousands more innocent Iraqis will die in Mr. Bush's war of choice whether we sacrifice hundreds more Americans or not. The sticking point becomes just how can the United States extricate itself from the Iraqi civil war without setting off full-scale slaughter. I don't have the answer to that question any more than the administration, the Iraq Study Group or any of the Wise Old Men in Washington do.

That is the reality in Iraq now.

It would be good for Americans of all political stripes to take the Iraq lesson to heart for the future - BEFORE the United States again engages in exercises in empire-stretching (as Buchanan has called the Iraq war), it ought to remember the laws of unintended consequences and realize that good intentions sometimes (or often) lose out to reality and history.

Right now, all of the administration's "good intentions" for the flowering of democracy in Iraq and the Middle East have lost out to the centuries-old animosities and ethnic/religious hatreds.

Let's remember that before the next Wilsonian president full of hubris decides he's going to try and remake the world to his own liking regardless of the realities here at home and abroad.

Great headline, RBE. Too bad the rock sits above the president's shoulders.

Goldman Sachs was so moved by your claims that our infrastructure is falling apart that it has created a new fund to tackle the job of building whatever needs building according to this report in today's Wall Street Journal:

Goldman Closes Infrastructure Fund

December 28, 2006 9:58 a.m.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. closed its first GS Infrastructure Partners fund with more than $6.5 billion in committed capital.

The New York-based global-investment company said the fund is dedicated to making global infrastructure investments.

The company said the fund will seek investments in traditional infrastructure sectors – such as toll roads, airports and ports as well as regulated gas, water and electrical utilities -- and expects the primary opportunities to be located in Europe and North America.

The fund has committed to recent investments including Associated British Ports and Kinder Morgan Inc. Goldman Sachs has contributed about $750 million to the fund's total capital.

"Goldman Sachs is a leading private equity and real estate investor with a long history of making profitable investments and GS Infrastructure Partners is a natural extension of that business," said Steven Feldman and William Young, co-heads of the infrastructure group in Goldman's merchant banking division.
Thanks, NYC.

As cartledge would say, Wizmark!
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