There is no viable military solution to turn Iraq into a stable, US friendly nation. There is no viable military solution to turn Iraq into a stable nation. None, nada, no way. As Steve points out, control of Iraq oil and US permanent bases only makes the situation worse and both must be abandoned, and it’s better if we do this willingly and not wait until the day we’re forced to flee as we did in Vietnam. A necessary act that could have had a better payoff for the US a year or so ago than it will now or in the future, but nevertheless, still necessary. Renounce all claims to any intent or designs on Iraqi oil and land for permanent bases is one demand the left should push for. The reasons for this are twofold. First, it differentiates Democrats from GWB. Second, the people in Iraq will never believe anything anyone in the US says if there is not strong public support in the US not to remain and profit from Iraq. Unless Democrats call for this and voters endorse it in the 2006 elections, they won’t believe that the commitment is sincere regardless if GWB is forced into it or later when DEM in the WH promises it. And anyone that still thinks GWB has a chance in Iraq should ponder this:
The second-highest diplomat at the United States Embassy in Baghdad is one of the anonymous government officials cited in an Aug. 4 indictment as having provided classified information to an employee of a pro-Israel lobbying group, people who have been officially briefed on the case said Wednesday. David M. Satterfield, deputy chief of the United States mission in Baghdad, is accused of giving classified information to a pro-Israel lobbyist. nytimes
That’s on a par with sending Bolton to the UN. (Note: Wes Clark’s three-prong approach isn’t worth considering. There is nobody in Iraq to negotiate with who can resolve anything; the rest of the world may recognize that Iraq is a problem for all of us but they ain’t gonna rush in and do the heavy lifting and kick in lots of money to save GWB’s or our ass. Juan Cole formulation is elegant, but no more practical.)
Fixing Iraq is a problem for Iraqis. They aren’t stupid. They understand their cultures and the challenges they face far better than we could ever hope to. However, we cannot ignore the physical damage and destruction that we have inflicted on the country. And how that has rippled out through the country and made the internal strife that much more difficult to resolve in a short period of time. I don’t know if they want a democracy or even want to continue to exist as a single nation. They may not know that either. What they need is time and calm to sort through all of this and decide what they want. And time and calm are exactly what they don’t have right now.
A Washington or Mandela of Iraq has not yet emerged. May never emerge. But one thing the US could do is recommend that Iraq kick Chalabi out and ship him to England as penance for Blair’s role in this mess. Beyond that is there any way the US could facilitate a period of calm in Iraq?
Guns or butter? The guns didn’t work; so, our only option is hoomis. Money doesn’t solve everything, but it can buy a shitload of goodwill. Time for an Iraq triangle – everybody retreat to your own corner. Shia, Sunnis and Kurds time for you to make your own corner work. Do it your way, and generous US assistance will be available if you all would agree to a few conditions:
1) Assess the cost of fixing the infrastructure that the US destroyed – the UN and human rights organizations may be willing to assist with this. The reconstruction estimates will be reviewed by US construction contracting experts for reasonableness (anyone involved with Halliburton et al. and US government contracting procurement agents that played any role in awarding Halliburton contracts in Iraq will be banned from the process). The US will pay the bill in the form of grants that are released as the work can be performed. If the Iraqi people don’t see improvements in electricity, water and roads or don’t see their citizens employed in reconstruction, it’s their problem, not ours.
2) Oil revenues never made Iraq wonderful for the average citizen in the past and won’t in the future, but as an economic base Iraq has more to work with than many other peoples around the world. Shia – let’s see you do better with the oil under your feet than Saddam did. Same for the Kurds. And the oil deprived Sunni’s? Screw them is simply not an option unless the Shia and Kurds don’t care if they ever pump another barrel of oil and welcome years of civil war. They are going to have to share. Beginning with 2.5% of revenues in the third year and increasing 2.5% per year until the Sunni share is 20%. Oil contracts must be ratified by a three member central board; the member selected by each group. Each member will have veto power over any contract that fails to maximize revenues; otherwise, majority rule, but unanimous consent should be a goal.
The high point for Iraq oil was in 2000 when production was 2.7 million bpd. It was down to 2.014 bpd in 2002 and worth about $13.3 billion. Human Rights Watch The Sunni’s are accustomed to getting most of the benefits from oil revenues. Not that that amounted to all that much throughout the 1990’s. Still, it’s hard to give up what one thinks one owns. That piddly 20% isn’t going to satisfy them anytime soon.
This calls for a big carrot. The US government will pay the Sunni’s $X ($20?) a barrel pumped in Iraq for the first two years up to a maximum of $20 billion dollars. For the next eight years, the price per barrel will decline by 5% per year, and then continue at that level for another ten years.
3) And the sticks.
a) Sunni’s attack Shia or Kurd territories, they lose their US reparations and oil tributes and the US with allies reserves the right to come to the defense of the Kurds or Shia. Kurds or Shia fail to pay their tributes or attack Sunni’s, the Sunni’s can do whatever they want to them (and the flow of US tributes will continue).
b) Shia or Kurds begin importing heavy arms, US will sell to the Sunni’s (and our arms are the best).
c) Shia or Kurds fail to feed, clothe, educate their people or engage in gross human rights abuse will have to answer to the Sunni’s if they choose to act. Sunni’s lose their US oil tribute for similar failures.
d) The question of federalism must be determined within seven years. Unilateral secession will double the tribute to those who remain. If not accomplished or tribute not paid, see a) above.
e) The US is not going to pay a lot of money to help keep the peace in Iraq if it means that girls and women are denied rights that they want. Until such time as equal rights for women are codified in law and practice, women will have the right to voice their opinion via a referendum every five years. (Men may not vote in this referendum.) If the will of the women is not instituted, see a) and b) above.
We don’t tell them how they must live or what their government must look like. We don’t throw a 5,000 page document at them to adopt. The basics are simple and can be read in their newspapers. If they want to find a way to live peaceably, we will reward that. If they don’t, not our problem. All three major groups have an incentive to rehabilitate the oil fields and maximize production (not sure that is so good for the rest of the world but it would benefit Iraq). They get greedy, they could lose it all. I do hope that the women of Iraq demand equality, but again, it has to be what they want and not imposed on them.
Expensive you say? Have you looked at the $1.3 trillion estimate for this war? We can offer to buy the peace for half of what remains to be spent. And regardless of how this works out, the people of Iraq won’t hate us half as much as they will if we simply “leave” or “stay the course.”