Thursday, December 07, 2006

What Can Be Done in Iraq?

I'm not sure what it was about August 2005 but two wise observers of our Iraq policy made suggestions then that are worth looking at again today. On August 21, 2005, current professor and former military man Andrew Bacevich spoke out in a Washington Post Op-Ed, "Call It a Day".

Among other things Bacevich wrote:
Rather than producing liberal democracy, our meddling in Iraqi politics has exacerbated political dysfunction. And by signaling the importance that it attributes to satisfying the core interests of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds alike, Washington has encouraged all three factions to increase their demands. Convinced that the Americans will never permit a cataclysmic collision, each faction is committed to playing a high-stakes game of chicken. If Iraq in August 2005 qualifies as the political equivalent of a clapped-out, self-abusing dependent, then the Bush administration ought to be recognized as being an enabler.... Stability -- defined as preserving a unified Iraq and reducing the insurgency -- cannot be imposed. It can only be negotiated by the various factions constituting the Iraqi polity. The issues dividing those factions are by no means trivial. But their common interest in maintaining the integrity of the state is also great. Announcing the U.S. departure will concentrate the minds of Iraqi leaders of all stripes. It will clear away any misconceptions regarding the consequences of secession.In addition to assuming that Iraqis require American supervision, the Bush administration's insistence on staying the course also implicitly assumes that a U.S. withdrawal would leave a dangerous political vacuum in the region. But this assumption too is suspect. More likely, the American departure would foster a political dynamic in which Iraq's neighbors would exert themselves to keep Iraq from spinning out of control -- not out of any concern for the well-being of the Iraqi peoplebut out of sheer self-interest.
On August 22 Juan Cole, current professor and former military brat, offered a 10 point plan for disengaging from Iraq. Today on his blog Professor Cole has dusted off this plan and suggested comparing it to the Iraq Study Group's recommendations 17 months later. Cole wrote today:
Alas, I no longer think that the US military can plausibly play the role I suggested for it below, and I had no idea of how vicious the civil war could get with nighttime death squads. They don't need set piece battles to kill 60 a day in the streets of Baghdad. But, it seems to me that these suggestions track pretty well with those of the Baker-Hamilton commission.

No comments: