Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Bush administration has no intention of winning in Iraq

The Bush administration does not have the backbone to prevail in the conflict in Iraq as defined by the administration’s own rhetoric. To do so would mean putting the nation on a real war footing sending tens of thousands of more troops there and suffering far greater casualties than we are presently. It would mean contrary to previous denials admitting there is a civil war going on in that country. It would mean admitting many mistakes were made, changing goals and strategies, and firing Donald Rumsfeld. This President doesn’t have the guts to do any of that. (Besides, for this administration winning is secondary to the use of conflict as a wedge issue.)

In today’s Guardian, former ambassador Peter Galbraith sees the situation in Iraq as not winnable on its current course and argues for the need to rethink our overall strategy. The country has already spun off three different spheres and he believes the most sensible thing to do is formalize this partition that has already taken place. He writes,
To "win", the US and Britain would have to dismantle clerical rule in
Iraq's south, disband Shia militias, persuade Iraq's Kurds to accept some
control from the central government in Baghdad, end the Sunni-Shia civil war
that is now taking 3000 lives a month, and find a more effective strategy for
combating the Sunni Arab insurgency. At a minimum, this would entail a vastly
greater military commitment to Iraq and many more coalition casualties.

Disarming the Shia militias would bring the coalition into conflict
with well-armed military forces that today number well over 100,000. Iraqi
forces exacerbate, not contain, the capital's civil war. They are partisans in
the conflict and the police commit many of the sectarian killings. To bring the
civil war under control, coalition forces would have to become the police of
Baghdad, a mission that would by its nature leave the troops more exposed to

US president George W Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair
have neither the will nor the political backing to send more troops to Iraq.
Unifying Iraq would also mean reversing decisions the two leaders made over past three years. In 2005, the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, helped broker an Iraqi constitution that permits the Kurdistan region (and other Iraqi regions
when formed) to have its own army and to veto almost all laws passed in Baghdad. To bring Kurdistan under Baghdad's control, Bush and Blair would have to undo a constitution both have embraced and which was approved by nearly 80% of Iraqi voters. While the coalition was the legal occupation authority in Iraq, the United States and Britain allowed the Shia political parties to set up their
theocracies in the south and the Shia militias to mushroom from a few thousand
to their current level.

Since the coalition has no intention of doing what is required to
put Iraq together again, the logical alternative is to work with country's
constituent components. Increasingly, Iraq's leaders are thinking the same way.
Iraqi cabinet members talk openly about dividing Arab Iraq into Sunni and Shia
areas with Baghdad divided between its Shia east and Sunni west. Abdul Aziz
al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest Shia party, has proposed a Southern
Region with the same powers as Kurdistan, and a "hard" border with the Sunni
areas, complete with border guards, to stop terrorist attacks.

Except rhetorically, neither Bush nor Blair is truly committed to
victory in Iraq. But so far, they are not willing to change the mission in Iraq
to conform to the resources they are prepared to commit. As a result, coalition
troops are present in parts of Iraq with no achievable mission. No purpose is
served by having British troops in southern Iraq when they are not going to take
on the militias or promote democracy. There is no point in having US troops in
the middle of civil war when they are not going to do anything serious to stop

This is a good starting point for a discussion about what to do in Iraq. The problem is no one in Washington (or London) is having this discussion. Read Galbraith’s entire article here.

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