Sunday :: Oct 22, 2006

Fallout From Bush's Iraq Misadventure


by Mary

Europeans and Middle Eastern experts are becoming deeply worried as they watch the chaos in Iraq spiral out-of-control. The numerous mistakes that the Bush administration has made are leading to a total breakdown that bodes poorly for the rest of the world. And other countries are trying to do their best to anticipate and plan for the final stages of Bush's war.

Back in August 2003, I warned that Iraq was worse than Vietnam because the consequences of failure there were significantly more dangerous than what happened when we left Vietnam. At that time, Robert Baer wrote about a conversation he had with a friend that said Iraq was a radically more dangerous situation.

"But you know," Salame said, as best as I can recall the conversation, "you can't just get up and walk away from Iraq like you did Lebanon. No matter how bad it gets. If Iraq turns into anarchy, it's likely to spill into the rest of the Gulf. It would be a catastrophe."

Salame is right. Leaving Iraq now, in a state of anarchy, would lead to civil war. And then almost anything could happen, from pulling in Iran to spreading chaos to the Arab states of the Gulf -- which, by the way, control something like 60 percent of the world's oil reserves. No matter how tough things get in Iraq, we cannot leave until it is mended.

The only thing that has changed since that report is that we now know that staying is no longer an option because the Bush administration has created such a horrific situation that the violence and chaos now feeds on itself and our presence is the gasoline on the fire.

Today, the world agrees that what was seen as a serious potentiality now appears inevitable and they fear what will be next.

Juan Cole reports:

Liz Sly reports on how the prospect of an ethnic and religious partition of Iraq terrifies local Middle Eastern elites, who fear the consequences for other Middle Eastern countries. Ethnically diverse Syria could go in the same direction. Or south Lebanon could become a Shiite mini-state. Sly quotes Syrian President Bashar al-Asad:

'"Imagine a necklace that breaks and all the pearls fall to the ground," he told the German magazine. "Almost all countries have breaking points, and when the ethnic-religious break occurs in one country it will not fail to occur elsewhere too. It would be as it was at the end of the Soviet Union, only much worse. Large wars, small wars: No one will be able to get a grip on the consequences."'

She also quote International Crisis Group project director Joost Hiltermann,

"there is also a risk that neighboring states will seek to pursue their own agendas and turn the country into a regional battleground, said Joost Hiltermann . . . "We'll have a replay of the Iran-Iraq War between the Iranians and the Arab states over what's left of Iraq," he said. And for a part of the world whose borders were drawn less than a century ago by British and French administrators, the consequences could indeed be dire, Hiltermann warned. "Everything here is new, a century old. The system has endured, but once it comes unstuck, anything can be challenged," he said. "It's madness, but if Iraq falls apart madness will rule the day."'

If Americans think that these sorts of big changes in the Middle East will leave them unaffected, they have another think coming.

Jim Hoagland writes that Europe is preparing for the eventual spillover as well.

The bloody chaos of Iraq under U.S. occupation is shaking Western governments into sobering reassessments of that conflict and of war itself. More urgently, some of these governments have launched tightly held contingency planning for the consequences of a possible American failure in Iraq.

"There will be no papers or staff meetings on that subject in our main ministries," one European senior official told me recently. "It would leak, and that would be disastrous. But our intelligence agencies have begun to work on where the terrorists would go post-Iraq. That is a threat we cannot ignore now."

The deepening doubts about America's commitment and strategy in Iraq that dominate polling for U.S. midterm elections have spread across the Atlantic in recent months as insurgency has metastasized into sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shiites.

...But military leaders and diplomats in Western capitals are not waiting for the Baker and U.N.-sponsored efforts to conclude before they assess the mistakes, poor strategy and changing conditions of warfare that have brought U.S. forces face to face with the bitter prospect of having to withdraw, mission unaccomplished.

..."Insurgency is here to stay," Jeb Nadaner, deputy assistant defense secretary for stability operations, said at a recent U.S.-British conference in Washington on reorganizing governments to fight irregular warfare.

Other speakers -- including conference organizer John Hillen, the State Department's top political-military expert -- spoke bluntly to the group about the continuing failure of the U.S. military and civilian bureaucracies to adapt to an era in which armor and infantry battles occupy only a small space on the overall battlefield and are in any event too costly to be carried on for very long.

Across the Atlantic, similar thinking is underway in defense ministries and force headquarters. "Classical warfare is probably dead. It is no longer a cost-effective tool to achieve political or economic goals," Gen. Vincent Desportes, the head of France's Doctrine Center for Forces Employment, wrote in a recent study of conflict in a post-Iraq-invasion world.

Instead, conventional wars "mutate very quickly into asymmetrical clashes, which do last," Desportes continued. "The decisive phase is no longer the initial short phase of intervention, but clearly the phase of long stabilization which follows it."

Yes, that is exactly what those of us that believed this war was wrong from the start knew. We saw that the Bush administration was arrogantly planning a war for which they had no plan for what would come after the invasion. It was evident while Bush and his neocons wanted an empire, they were ignoring the lessons from previous empires that said you must plan for the aftermath. These guys never did that and so we are left with their smoldering failed state.

What is the Bush administration's plan for fixing the problem? Their one idea for fixing this is to scold the al-Maliki government for not doing more. At the beginning of the month, Condi dropped into Iraq and scolded the Iraqi government for not disarming the militias. Oh yeah, something the Bush administration knew they were powerless to do with their overwhelming power and their well-trained military troops, they know that the al-Maliki government must do what they are told or lose the backing of the Bush administration. Nevermind that the al-Maliki government is too powerless to do what the Bush administration harangues them to do.

But for Condi at least there is a silver lining. After all, Condi is no longer being told to straighten out the mess but has graduated to being the one who gets to tell others to get things fixed.

Rumsfeld as well has been warning the Iraqis that if they don't get things fixed, that they will be left with the mess.

Rumsfeld said on Friday that "the biggest mistake would be to not pass things over to the Iraqis, create a dependency on their part, instead of developing strength and capacity and competence."

"It's their country," he said. "They're going to have to govern it, they're going to have to provide security for it and they're going to have to do it sooner rather than later."

The state of delusion here in the United States is terrifying, because with these guys in charge, they aren't just aiming the car over the cliff, they seem to be stepping on the gas as they rush towards the glorious end when they can finally blame everyone else for their failure.

If there is any justice in the world, Bush and his Rubber-stamped Congress will pay for their fecklessness on November 7th. Unfortunately, fixing the Iraq problem will take a miracle, and our world seems to have a short supply of those these days.

Mary :: 2:02 PM :: Comments (21) :: Digg It!