Will The New Congress Debate A Partitioned Iraq?
Ten more US soldiers were killed in Iraq just in one day yesterday, and October is on a pace to become the deadliest month for American casualties, nearly three years after “Mission Accomplished. And yet there is no new policy or thinking coming from this White House, no regional security conference, no sealing of the borders, no direct talks with Iraq’s neighbors, no incentives to the militias to temporarily set aside their differences to unite against a common enemy in Al Qaeda of Iraq, and no broad thinking about making Baghdad an open city in a three-state nation. If Prime Minister al-Maliki isn't willing or prepared to disarm the militias until next year at the earliest, then why are our troops in harm's way getting killed for doing the work that the Iraqi Army can't and won't do? And yet, the Bush Administration is on auto-pilot and thinking that progress is being made by doing nothing.
But that doesn’t mean fellow Republicans aren’t moving beyond Bush’s inaction. Texas GOP Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who isn’t facing a true threat in this year’s election, openly supported a three-state Iraq yesterday, even if it meant more US troops to implement it. She also endorsed the regional security conference idea of talking with Iraq’s neighbors, and disagrees with James Baker that a three-state solution would lead to civil war. She already calls the situation in Iraq “chaos.” In essence, Hutchinson is supporting the Joe Biden/Leslie Gelb plan for Iraq, a variation of what was first put forward by Ambassador Peter Galbraith for a partitioned Iraq. This is noteworthy, because if the Democrats retake the Senate and Biden takes over as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, he will have at least one GOP senator who will support his three-state solution for the country, a senator from the president’s home state. Given that the committee is also comprised of reasonable GOP thinkers like Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel, and George Voinovich, no one should assume that the three-state solution wouldn’t get a full hearing in the new Congress.
There are serious problems with pursuing a partitioned Iraq, aside from the imperial arrogance of the United States being the latest western power to assume it has the right to dictate Iraq's future. But simply put, in order to make the unified state theory work at this stage would require the United States to double the number of troops in Iraq to disarm the militias and simultaneously suppress Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Sunni insurgency to a degree that would allow a central government to gain its footing. We don't have that number of troops or political support for that, nor will we under this president. Even if we did, this assumes that the Shiites and the Kurds want a central government to gain such footing in the first place.
But if we will not be able to overcome the militias and the Sunni insurgency militarily, then shouldn't we move straight away to pursuing the political solutions that this administration has ignored for over three years now. Certainly there are flaws in the three-state solution as well as things to recommend it, and dealing with Turkey's resistance to a Kurdish state and providing the Sunnis the economic and security resources necessary to form their own region are at the top of the list. But doing nothing under either a "stay the course so they don't follow us over here" or "stand up/stand down" shifting rationale is no longer acceptable, if it ever was.