Thursday, May 17, 2007
The Wheels Come Off
The Bush administration's Iraq policy has been reduced to crossing its fingers and hoping that come September, General Petraeus will bail them out with an assessment of the "Surge" that can buy them another 3-6 months. In the meantime, according to a briefing paper issued by Chatham House, an English public policy think tank, "It can be argued that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation."
A common theme of the problems the report cites is multiplicity:
- "There is not ‘one’ civil war, nor ‘one’ insurgency, but several civil wars and insurgencies between different communities and organizations..."
- "Iraqi nationalisms exist, but one distinct ‘Iraqi’ nationalism does not..."
- "The Iraqi government is not able to exert authority evenly or effectively over the country... At best, it is merely one of several ‘state-like actors’ that now exist in Iraq..."
This passage on the effect of the daily violence on Iraqi youth, as reflected in blogs and YouTube postings, was especially disheartening:
The change in the content of these blogs is remarkable. Barely a year ago, young Iraqis commonly talked about their desires to see the Americans leave and for a genuinely Iraqi political process to emerge. Now, bloggers tend to fall into one of two categories: they either wish the US to stay in order to prevent the final collapse into a ‘total’ civil war; or they wish the US to leave in order to allow the civil war to erupt fully – such is the level of sectarian-based hatred in Baghdad today...
A further outlet for Iraqi sectarianism now exists on YouTube. Postings by both Shi’a and Sunnis, calling for a whole range of barbarous acts to be committed against the other exist alongside a video catalogue of the worst atrocities inflicted upon Shi’a by Saddam’s regime and the murderous activities of Shi’a government-backed ‘death squads’.
Of course, after four years of "stuff happens", "dead-enders" and "last throes", we're all familiar with the Bush administration's standard operating procedure: Push back for six months against what is obvious to most objective observers, and then come up with a half-assed course correction to paper over what's already an outdated assessment.
But as things stand, there are really only two possible courses of action in Iraq: A massive military escalation accompanied by an American commitment to spend the next 5-10 years securing the country. Or an immediate withdrawal.
The first offers no guarantees of success. The second, the likelihood of failure. And both are, for the time being, politically impossible.