Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Iraqnamization UPDATED

Like a lot of people, I've been thinking about the Iraq withdrawal and the Preznit's non-plan for victory.

The cornerstone of virtually all politicians for withdrawal is the training of Iraqi's to take over the security needs of the nation. This is a policy that is fundamentally flawed and will never work:

Martin Van Creveld via Eric Alterman:
“Simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.
This is the nature of a popular uprising and why the training of Iraqi's has thus far can't tell the good guys from the bad guys. It's been widely reported that American's have been unwilling to equip a new Iraq army primarily due to fear that the weapons will then be used as a part of the insurgency. If this is the case, and I believe it is, how in the world can a plan that is dependent on training Iraqi's to take over security ever work?

And if turning over security duties to Iraqis won't work, then what? Martin Van Creveld:
A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties. As the pullout proceeds, Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge — if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not
This sounds about right in terms of precipitous withdrawal. However, I don't believe Bush, or any other President for that matter, will accept a plan of just ...... leaving.

So what's left?

The Vietnam option.

The Vietnam withdrawal is as described by Martin Van Creveld above but with perhaps fewer American casualties during actual withdrawal. But unfortunately it includes many more years of fighting and many more deaths. The time to play out a Vietnam withdrawal scenario is why it gets called a "quagmire".

As the Vietnam war became untenable from a public support perspective, Nixon pursued a carrot and stick approach. He combined negotiations with the use of a ground war focused on training South Vietnamese army and an increased massive bombing program. The negotiations dragged on for months of bloody bombing and fighting as the northern "insurgency" continued a war of attrition. And as mentioned above, the South Vietnamese army was in much better shape than the current Iraqi's and was well equipped by Americans. Ultimately, a truce was negotiated that included a major fig leaf for the United States to withdraw. The North Vietnamese essentially agreed to terms, then once the U.S. was gone, they violated any agreements. In short order, the South Vietnamese, despite being well equipped and trained, fell to the North finally ending the war.

The Vietnam option in Iraq is slightly different, but the United States position is not. Iraq is different in that there are multiple competing contingents (Sunni's, Shiite militias, Kurds, and the American backed governmet). Americans are commonly hated by all with a public at home that is weary of going nowhere quickly. The Bush administration is in the phase of abandoning a stick-only approach and beginning the carrot and stick phase. While negotiating with both the Sunni's and Iranian back Shiites, we will continue to fight and bomb the country to gain leverage in negotiations. When fighting continues unabated, a negotiated withdrawal will be announced with a relatively peaceful withdrawal of American soldiers. Once gone, a civil war will be then be fought for the destiny of Iraq.

The winner of any civil conflict is the Iranians who will likely get nuclear weapons out of the deal. Fundamentalist Islam will have a larger foothold in the Middle East, Israel will be less secure, and the United States will sabre rattle for years pretending to have "stabilized" Iraq by removing Saddam.

In other words, the only thing changed by the war is that lots and lots of people will be dead, Iraq will be partitioned with the fundamentalist occupying a large swath of the south, the reputation of the United States damaged requiring generations to rebuild, and the threats associated with Islamic fundamentalism magnified (take note Saudia Arabia).

It really is too bad the Preznit didn't serve in Vietnam. Maybe if he had, we could have avoided repeating the Vietnam history so quickly. The United States will yet again realize an age old lesson. National governments are determined by residents of the nations, not by outsiders. And no amount of force or power can change that equation.

UPDATE: This from Eric Alterman:
Approximately 27,000 U.S. soldiers, and millions of Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens died during the phase of the war Nixon termed “Vietnamization” before the president was forced to resign in disgrace and his successor, Gerald Ford, was forced to admit the futility of the war and accept America’s defeat.


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