Sunday, November 20, 2005

Iraqi Crystal Ball

Why are insurgents fighting in Iraq? One reasonable answer is it is actually a fight between Sunni and Shiite which is taking place. It is a sectarian fight. That is one thread in Rep. Murtha's thinking. What are we doing there when those people are fighting among themselves? Get out. Because otherwise American Army will be broken and will not have an ability to fight another war, the real war on Terror.

Has anyone read James Fallows in Atlantic? I have not, but apparently that article is the one which is making waves at present; everyone is talking about that. As Krugman quotes him in NYT - either we only loose Iraq but keep our Army or we loose both. What do you want? Rep. Murtha is saying that he wants our Army back intact, not ruined Army.

Beyond this line of thinking, there are two fundamental questions to be addressed: (Joe Klein in Time and Weekly Standard – Kristol, Barnes gang):
- will larger Middle East be stable after we pull out and
- will America be safer after the pull out?

I do not agree with Rep. Murtha’s assertion completely that American Army is the main reason for instability in the region (I rather share his other argument of preserving American Army from the corrosive effects, probably substantiated by Fallows). This is because it is the sectarian fight there. If you want a parallel, imagine 1947 in the Indian Subcontinent. Hindus and Muslims were killing each other in millions, British left, killing still continued. British realized that by then things were out of their control. What the heck India – Pakistan are still not able to solve their problems after 4 wars in 5 decades. We have to remember that Sunni and Shiite animosity is way too deep, way too ingrained in Islam’s history. Saddam as Sunni power and Ayatollah’s of Iran have been at throats for more than a decade. So notwithstanding the grand talk of freedom and democracy of Bush and NeoCons; the tectonic fissures of Shiite - Sunni fight are too deep and powerful to be controlled by the presence of American forces or the passage of new constitution or parliamentary elections in Iraq in short term.

So pulling American forces will not bring stability to Iraq is true because in the first place it is a mute point how much Americans are a force in the local conflict. No doubt pull out will further make that region instable. This answers the first question in a negative way. As a result, very likely the region will be another Afghanistan. What with Iran on the border, conservative Shiite would eventually skid in the Ayatollah world view of hating America. It is just the matter of time and it is more likely to happen because for the sheer survival of Shiite in the Sunni surrounded area, they will have to form comradeship with Iran. In the NeoCon world view pulling Americans at this point is indeed giving fillip to the enemy. That is true but unavoidable.

Then, the larger question for those who back the immediate pull out is what if we need to send American Army again in future in that area to root out Terrorism? It is like if the world had taken care of Afghanistan earlier; Taliban would not come to the power. In other words, if pull out backers want to avoid the fate of Bush (misleading American public); they better tell American pulblic that in future American forces may need to go back to that region. These leaders better tell that now otherwise they will fall victim to the same credibility issue as like Bush.

What do we gain then by pulling now? Here comes Rep. Murtha (and possibly James Fallows) line – we get to preserve our Army first instead of breaking our war machine by over use, we get breathing time to refurbish American fighting forces, we get a new opportunity to undertake fresh assessment of War on Terror, as a consequence we get a new opportunity to apply our forces in the way it is required and where it is needed and we get a renewed opportunity to sell the Global War on Terror to the whole world so that it becomes more participatory instead of one man show of America.

Will it not crumble the image of America as a Super Power if we pull out now? Sure it will. It will not make it easy to negotiate with Iran or N. Korea or other rogue states. But then what matters most – prestige and imperial aura of America in the world or affordability of American public. If American Leaders sold them the war cheaply and the continuation of that imperial policy is coming at the cost of an ability of American State to tend towards now and current needs of American people; how can you try to pretend to be the Super Power? In the end Super Power status is to serve American People better. If the leaders make the error of attempting to preserve this status by way of selling something which American people did not buy in the first place; then hell with the goals of those leaders. Those goals mean nothing to American people. This is what crucially needs to be understood by NeoCons so that they can rest their ghosts of Vietnam calmly (their Vietnam ghost – only if America was stronger, we could have won there; only if Liberals had not sabotaged war efforts at home, America would have prevailed).

But in any case, things need not be so dire even if American Army leaves Iraq. In the larger scheme of things, Vietnam war turned out to be less significant. America’s loss neither resulted in win for China nor for Russia. America could rebuild her Army, make it a better force and most importantly could refocus on the main enemy of Cold War – Soviet Union. So similarly, immediate pull out from Iraq may be costly for America in short term; but will give her more room to address long term challenges in a better way.

This brings us to the last point – who will be those leaders who will sale this to American people or rather in whom America will trust to pull this off. Bush – being a sitting president he can do it; but unlikely. The hunch is the whole current batch of Congressional leadership in both parties is tainted so much by Iraq issue and very few of them have got a consistent read on the situation; it gives uncomfortable feeling in expecting these leaders to pull of this transition. Sen. Clinton, Sen. McCain and many others of this world are way too vested in this quagmire to project any cleaner track record to pull off this transition. This is where Gov. Bill Richardson, Gov. Mark Warner, Rudy Gulliani of the world would get the opening for their future American Leadership. Worth to watch who bells the cat and who pulls off this magic.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
November 21, 2005.

1 comment:

copy editor said...

I agree that there is a risk of instability in the region with a complete U.S. disengagement.

However, Murtha's plan called for the U.S. to pull back just beyond the borders, beyond the horizon. I'm not sure where he'd want to base our forces (clearly not Saudi Arabia), but he did not want to abandon the region completely.

My personal view is that the best strategy with Iraq is a drastic draw down and a substantial effort at building a real Iraqi force.

The Atlantic article you reference shows that the Iraqi army will not achieve the highest mark for combat readiness because that is not the current goal of training. The goal in our training effort needs to build NCOs, junior officers, logitics, etc. to make a force that can really take on the country's ills. Further, it cannot be a sectarian institution like the Royal Ulster Constabulary was in Northern Ireland.

Great post.