Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A verdict on trying to change the course of history in Iraq

This is John Burns, the New York Times correspondent, who has managed to survive four years in Baghdad while getting in and around some of the most dangerous places there. He recently spoke with National Review's John Podhoretz and delivered this verdict on American involvement(and by extension, further involvement)there:

"We just didn't understand, and perhaps didn't work hard enough to understand, what lay beneath this carapace which is a deeply fractured society that had always been held together, since the British constructed it, by drawing geometric lines on the map — Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia in the 1920s — a country that had really always been held together by force and varying degrees repression. The King, King Faisal, is remembered, the King who was assassinated in 1958, as a kind of golden era, but even that is really, was not really a parliamentary democracy. It was still basically an autocratic state and I think we needed to understand better the forces that we were going to liberate.

And my guess is that history will say that the forces that we liberated by invading Iraq were so powerful and so uncontrollable that virtually nothing the United States might have done, except to impose its own repressive state with half a million troops, which might have had to last ten years or more, nothing we could have done would have effectively prevented this disintegration that is now occurring."

I think that is a powerful argument for a real disengagement there.


Carol Gee said...

I remember the children's verse about Humpty Dumpty. I never thought it would have application to an occupation, but it might: "All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty back together again."
To add another cliche, the verdict is still out but the jury will come back with a "guilty" soon, I think.

german said...

ah so sad but true can america once again occupy and set up democracy in foreign lands like they did in japan and germany following world war 2. it appears not but where do we go from there

moville said...

I hear that analogy used a lot, e.g. Iraq should be like Germany or Japan. Don't forget that both Germany and Japan had a long tradition of at least quasi-democratic rule, and that both nations were homogenous, without significant and/or assertive minority populations. We didn't have to work that hard to convince them to recommence their existence as functioning democracies. With Iraq, you have the psychological deformation from saddam, you have the centuries-old and very serious religious conflict, you have the uneven distribution of natural resources, and so on... about ten serious strikes against would-be democracy makers right off the top. Some pretty steep odds there, and that's not even counting the Big Christian Army invading Small Muslim nation dynamic.

jodmeister said...

IMO, the perfect plan could be presented to the bushies and they would spin it to the contrary. They have an agenda and by God, they are going to stay the course, whatever the h*ll that course is and for whatever purpose it serves them and to h*ll with the rest of us.

Like Colin Powell said, "we broke it so we bought it" or something like that...and there is no money back guarantee!

SS97 said...

That sounds like rhetoric from the 06 congressional races. Bush has made some changes recently;for example, the troop surge and the SoD change. He's also taken some advice from the BHC. Congress is quick to criticize but are apprehensive when it comes to proposing ideas of their own.

moville said...

i can't agree that more troops equals a change in strategy, when we continue to try for a mililtary victory where there can't be one, unless we make it a wilderness and call it peace.
here's what i would do, for what it's worth: iraq is comprised of three provinces, thrown together from the ruins of the ottoman empire by the british in l9l9-20. basra, in the south, overwhelmingly shiite; baghdad, heavily sunni; mosul, heavily kurdish. the sunnis are newly disenfranchised, fearful of the Shiia and unwilling to accept Shiia governance. they also lack economic resources, any way to make a living. If people are determined to keep iraq together, why not pay every sunni family $50,000 and require their resettlement elsewhere(Jordan, Syria maybe). if it's just the kurds and shiia, you could have the loosest possible federation, the Shiia and Kurds united only for the purposes of defense and foreign policy and a common currency and preventing World War III with Turkey.
So there's a plan, a skeleton plan, and I'm not even in Congress!

jodmeister said...

So he's wanting a troop surge. Lah de dah but what is his plan with them? Yeah he's changed his SoD but it's too soon to tell if he will be effective. I still believe he has his own agenda. He might listen to others to appease them but ultimately, he's going to stay the course that is running through his gray matter.

I do agree that Congress does not have a plan and it would be nice if they would not critize unless they have a counter point. I wouldn't have the slightest clue how to bring this to a conclusion and I'm glad I don't have to make the decision. Then again, I wouldn't have invaded in the first place.

SS97 said...


So that's why the federal government consults historians when making policy:)That sounds like a pretty well thought out exit strategy. I've heard a few exit strategies that sound interesting. Former CIA agent and Middle East Expert, Bob Baer,proposed what seemed like a reasonable exit strategy too. Most in Washington seem to recognize that we cant just abandon Maliki with a quasi-functional government. It's mostly the anti-war celebrities and those on the far left who dont seem to be thinking this through rationally.

Unfortunately radical Islam's disdain for the West will persist whether we're there or not. Middle Eastern children are being brainwashed wholesale into believing that the West is "the great Satan" and they point to what they believe to be an immoral and "debaucherous" (excuse the "Bushism")Western culture to prove their point. Unless everyone is okay with adopting Sharia Law in the US and Europe, radical Islam will be a constant threat to the West.

SS97 said...


I'm not sure if publicly disclosong an official military strategy is such a good idea. As you mentioned,Gates just recently took office and it is too early to tell what he plans on doing, so I guess we'll just to wait and see.

You wouldn't have invaded in the first place, huh? Well, you were definitely in the minority then. Even Clinton back in 98 (http://www.cnn.com/US/9812/16/clinton.iraq.speech/) believed that Saddam needed to be replaced.

moville said...

Yes, absolutely, Clinto, albright et al believed Saddam should go. But I don't think it would ever have happened if not for September 11, which either a)gave the President an excuse to try to hang the attacks on Saddam or b)tempted the President to try to rid the world of what he perceived as an imminent threat, in the interest of avoiding another 9/11.

I wouldn't have opted for an invasion, either, probably, because i did a lot of work on Yugoslavia in grad school, another fake state. it fell apart, too, after it lost its dictatorship, and the old conflicts were just as intractable and just as suddenly deadly as Iraq's. Iraq would've fallen apart that way, too, eventually. But the breakup wouldn't have had our fingerprints all over it.

Agreed on radical iran and radicalized children--something like 40% of british muslims would like to have sharia. But i don't think that's what all radicals are after...they've talked about getting infidel troops in islam's holy places(they got rid of the USSR in afghanistan), exploitation of islamic countries for western interests and perceived unfairness/double standards in israel/palestine. I wonder what would happen if some of these things were addressed or acknowledged somehow? the British government eventually did this with the IRA, and a peace agreement followed.

jodmeister said...

Well sp, we are going to have to agree to disagree. I wouldn't have agreed with Clinton either had he invaded Iraq. We backed Saddam in the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s, supplied him with God knows what, and then he becomes the enemy. Don't get me wrong, Saddam is a terrible man. My point is the US should have NEVER backed either one. Now, we look like hypocrites. How many other puppet governments have we held the strings to.

I also don't have enough knowledge to make anymore valid arguements. ;-)

SS97 said...

Along those lines of thinking, we also shouldn't be pursuing Osama Bin Laden because we once provided him and other Middle Eastern anti- Communists with weapons in the 70s.

How about the Gulf War? Were you opposed to that war, too? If you were opposed to the Iraq invasion based on the fact that we aided the Iraqis in the Iraq Iran War, I guess you must've been opposed to the Gulf War too, right?

german said...

missing the old days of the cold war. how much fun it was to support someone for a period of time then to lose interest in there support of our clandestine mission only to have to go in and clean it up later. it was so much easier knowing who the bad guys were.