Saturday :: Dec 9, 2006

Unmitigated Disaster

by Mary

Only Bush could take a horrible situation and create an unmitigated disaster. How's that you say? Well, he's bound and determined to seize victory out of the mess of Iraq despite the fact that his policies have already created a horrific civil war that threatens to spill across the entire Middle East. Because as Steve noted, what he and his bright boys and girls are thinking of doing is to side with the Shias in Iraq. Of course, the Bush administration would be happy to apply a lot more violence in the hopes that this would solve the problem. Here's Laura Rozen take:

Tilt is about the risk of condoning a level of violence thought to be required to get the Sunnis to recognize their reduced status in the new Iraq.

So what are the problems with this totally immoral strategy?

How about the fact that the Sunnis already think the goal of the Shias (and their US partners) isn't to establish reduced status, but the total elimination of the Sunnis from Baghdad? Here's how Nir Rosen assessed the situation in his long analysis of the situation on the ground in the Boston Review (emphasis mine):

[T]his much is clear: the Mahdi Army is the police. It holds all the force of state power.

And the once confident and aggressive Sunnis now see the state as their enemy. They are very afraid. All Iraqis are.

The Saudis already warned the administration that they would step in if the Sunni population in Iraq was not protected.

Cheney's trip to talk to Saudi King Abdullah was far less visible than Bush's mission, but helped to make painfully clear the gap between U.S. goals and those of its Arab allies.

U.S. officials said Cheney initiated the trip. But foreign diplomats said that Saudi leaders sought the visit to express their concern about the region, including fears of a U.S. departure and what they see as excessive American support for the Shiite faction in Iraq.

After the meeting with Cheney, Saudi officials released an unusual statement pointedly highlighting American responsibility for deterioration of stability in the region.

The Saudi officials cited "the direct influence of … the United States on the issues of the region" and said it was important for U.S. influence "to be in accord with the region's actual condition and its historical equilibrium," an apparent reference to the Sunni-Shiite balance.

...The statement "came pretty close to a rebuke, by Saudi standards," said Charles W. Freeman Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. "It said, in effect, that the United States needs to behave responsibly."

There have been other signals of Saudi anxiety recently.

On Wednesday, an advisor to the Saudi government wrote in the Washington Post that if the United States pulled out of Iraq, "massive Saudi intervention" would ensue to protect Sunnis from Shiite militias.

As Patrick Cockburn had noted in October, a major reason Iraq was so divided was because the Sunnis already believed the US was not concerned about their fate. (emphasis mine)

The present slaughter in Iraq is taking place because the existing ethnic and sectarian hostilities have combined with animosities that have been created by the occupation. For instance, a Sunni ex-army officer supporting the resistance now sees a Shia serving in the Iraqi army or police force not just as the member of a different Islamic sect but as a traitor to his country who is actively collaborating with the hated invader.

The last excuse for the occupation was that at least it prevented civil war, but this it very visibly is not doing. On the contrary it de-legitimises the Iraqi government, army and police force, which are seen by Iraqis as pawns of the occupier. When I've asked people in Baghdad what they think of their government, they often reply: "What government? We never see it. It does nothing for us."

...The Government's picture of Iraq is not so much a tissue of lies as a tissue of fantasies. It is absurd to say that American and British forces will stay until Iraqi security forces are trained to take their place. What soldiers and police lack is not training but loyalty to the Iraqi government. Far from establishing an independent Iraq or preventing a civil war, the continued presence of American and British troops deeply destabilises the country, de-legitimises its government and deepens sectarian hatred.

What we have is a truly terrible situation where there are no good answers, but there are some really, really bad answers. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute thinks that one of the least worst solutions would be to help the Iraqis partition themselves, but of course, that also has its downsides.

O'Hanlon considers the Iraq mission to be so close to outright failure and civil war that he recently proposed that the U.S. and Iraqi governments consider a "voluntary ethnic relocation plan" to get in front of a potential wave of ethnic and sectarian cleansing and genocide that could kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The drawback to the plan, he concedes, "is that if you implement it prematurely or fail to time it just right, you could ignite exactly the kind of ethnic cleansing you're trying to avoid."

Yet, with Bush in charge, even these options are off the table because it would mean having to understand the severity of the problem. Our only guarantee is that we will almost assuredly get to see more of the worst options chosen as he blindly rolls the dice trying to recoup his losses. It's all about gut, you see. And never, ever admitting a mistake.

Mary :: 3:13 PM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!