5 November 2003

Iraqification: Losing Strategy

For the neoconservatives in the Pentagon, a quick transfer fulfills a pet obsession, installing in power the Iraqi exiles led by Ahmad Chalabi. Last week the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a senior administration official as saying, 'There are some civilians at the Pentagon who've decided that we should turn this over to someone else and get out as fast as possible.' But every indication we have is that the exiles do not have broad popular support.

Yep, what he said, especially when he argues the difficulties faced by any Iraqi security force...

There are no shortcuts out. Iraq is America's problem. It could have been otherwise, but in the weeks after the war the administration, drunk with victory, refused to share power with the world. Now there can be only one goal: success. The first task of winning the peace in Iraq is winning the war -- which is still being waged in the Sunni heartland. And winning it might take more troops, or different kinds of troops (send back the Marines). It might take a mixture of military force and bribes -- to win over some Sunni leaders. But whatever it takes, the United States must do it. Talk about a drawdown of troops sends exactly the wrong message to the guerrillas. In the words of one North Vietnamese general, 'We knew that if we waited, one day the Americans would have to go home.'

No. An emotional need to postpone the evil day when the US abandons the enterprise of Iraq is not a policy. Iraq is the Iraqi people's problem and until they own both the problem and its solutions nothing much is going to happen except more blood and more misery.

'The central problem in Vietnam,' says Brookings's Kenneth Pollack, 'was that we had a corrupt and ineffective local government that did not inspire either the allegiance or the confidence of the Vietnamese people. Whatever happened militarily became secondary to this fundamental political reality.' We don't have that problem in Iraq. But a hasty Iraqification will almost certainly produce it.

Actually, that is wrong also. There is already a corrupt and ineffective local government that does not inspire the allegiance or confidence of the Iraqi people. It is called the Iraqi Governing Council although it exercises no governmental authority. It is corrupt in the manner of its appointment, the inclusion of various exiles without popular support, and ineffectual in terms of the manner of its creation as a wholly-owned and -operated CPA subsidiary. Even the revolving door governments of the RVN had at least some powers which were independent of the US military command. The IGC has none. A successor elected under US auspices is unlikely to have more would still be weaker in relation to the CPA than any RVN government was.

Yes, Iraq is broken and needs fixing. It does not follow that the US has a mandate (or even the ability) to continue its fixation.

I usually don't mirror the debate in the US quite this closely, but for some reason this meme has been driving me crazy the last couple of days. And isn't 'Iraqification' an even uglier word than 'regime change'?

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