Monday, October 23, 2006

The Murtha Solution is Unacceptable

Robert D. Kaplan argues that we can't just leave Iraq.
An emerging school of thought says that the only real leverage we're going to have is the threat of withdrawal, which would concentrate the minds of the various groups to seek modalities with each other for governing the country. That's a bet, not a plan. You could also bet that any timetable for withdrawal will lead to a meltdown of the Iraq Army according to region and sect. Even if we promise that all of our military advisors will stay put, in addition to our air and special operations assets, no one in a culture of rumor and conspiracy theory might believe us.

Because it turned out we had no postwar plan, our invasion (which I supported) amounted to a bet. Our withdrawal, when it comes to that, must be different. If we decide to reduce forces in the country under the current anarchic conditions, then we are both morally and strategically obligated to talk with Iran and Syria, as well as call for a regional conference. Iraq may be closer to an explosion of genocide than we know. An odd event, or the announcement of pulling 20,000 American troops out, might trigger it. We simply cannot contemplate withdrawal under these conditions without putting Iraq's neighbors on the spot, forcing them to share public responsibility for the outcome, that is if they choose to stand aside and not help us.

What we should all fear is a political situation in Washington where a new Congress forces President George W. Bush to redeploy, and Bush, doing so under duress, makes only the most half-hearted of gestures to engage Iraq's neighbors in the process. That could lead to hundreds of thousands of dead in Iraq, rather than the tens of thousands we have seen. An Iran that continues to enrich uranium is less of a threat to us than genocide in Iraq. A belligerent, nuclear Iran is something we will, as a last resort, be able to defend against militarily. And it probably won't come to that. But if we disengage from Iraq without publicly involving its neighbors, Sunni Arabs—who will bear the brunt of the mass murder—will hate us for years to come from Morocco to Pakistan. Our single greatest priority at the moment is preventing Iraq from sliding off the abyss.
As I have read Vali Nasr's book,I've gone back and forth on this question. On the one hand, if there is to be a Shia/Sunni civil war, there's not much we or anybody but the parties to it can do. But Nasr believes that the Iraqi Shiites are not interested in an Iranian-style theocracy.

If there is anyone in Iraq like our George Washington, it's probably Ayatollah al-Sistani. He follows traditional Shiism, which basically teaches a kind of separation of clergy and state, which is what I think the correct reading of the First Amendment should be. He supports a majority rule system, meaning a Shia dominated polity, but doesn't presume to tell the Shia what they should decide. He encourages voting and democracy and a guarantee that Shiites must be allowed religious freedom and not suppressed and persecuted by Sunnis as they have been in the past. It's a distinctly different approach than the Mullahocracy of Iran. Somehow, Iraqis need to learn from this man.

But there are a plethora of groups in Iraq who want to seize power and settle old scores with violence. They range from communists to fascists to theocrats. We must find a way to allow Iraqis to reach their own solution but not allow violence to get too far out of hand. How we do that without interfering too much is the question. We have to identify the basic values we will defend and stand for them, but we also have to allow this new government to learn its lessons, as difficult as they may be.

Right now, there is a lot of impatience with Maliki and the pace of training of Iraqi security forces. There's also frustration with the amount of corruption and deceit among governmental and police officials. Democrats want to drop everything and come home, now, but they can't be taken seriously. We may not want war, but war still may want us, because we're the last superpower, and just refusing to fight is asking for trouble.

I don't credit the argument that we had no postwar plan, because even now we don't know how things will develop. We did have plans and we've carried them out. If it weren't for the constant whining by the media and the left, we'd be seeing that we've done very well with it. Bush has understood from the beginning that this venture requires resolve and steadiness at the helm. He is definitely a real man by Kipling's measure.


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