Saturday, February 17, 2007

What if the doomsayers are wrong?

Given that the people behind the decision to invade Iraq and who presided over the aftermath were so incredibly wrong, what possible reason is there the even listen to, let alone believe, what they have to say about what the consequences of leaving would be? We have ample justification to ignore them out of hand but Robert Dreyfuss, in an article in Washington Monthly called Apocalypse Not, goes to the trouble of debunking each of the commonly trotted out "worst-case assumptions" used to justify staying in Iraq.
But if it was foolish to accept the best-case assumptions that led us to invade Iraq, it’s also foolish not to question the worst-case assumptions that undergird arguments for staying.


The idea that al-Qaeda might take over Iraq is nonsensical. Numerous estimates show that the group called Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its foreign fighters comprise only 5 to 10 percent of the Sunni insurgents’ forces. Most Sunni insurgents are simply what Wayne White—who led the State Department’s intelligence effort on Iraq until 2005—calls POIs, or “pissed-off Iraqis,” who are fighting because “they don’t like the occupation.”


The reality is far different. Even if AQI came to dominate the Sunni resistance, it would be utterly incapable of seizing Baghdad against the combined muscle of the Kurds and the Shiites, who make up four fifths of the country.


Were U.S. troops to leave Iraq today, the Baathists, the military, and the tribal leaders would likely join forces to exterminate AQI in short order.

It’s also worth questioning whether the forces that call themselves Al Qaeda in Iraq have any real ties to whatever remains of Osama bin Laden’s weakened, Pakistan-based leadership.


Although it’s convenient for the Bush administration to claim that al-Qaeda is a Comintern-like international force, it is really a loose ideological movement, and its Iraq component is fed largely by jihadists who flock to the country because they see the war as a holy cause. Once the United States withdraws, Iraq will no longer be a magnet for that jihad.


First, the United States is doing little, if anything, to restrain ethnic cleansing, either in Baghdad neighborhoods or Sunni and Shiite enclaves surrounding the capital. Indeed, under its current policy, the United States is arming and training one side in a civil war by bolstering the Shiite-controlled army and police.


Even if post-occupation efforts to create a new political compact among Iraqis fail, the most likely outcome is, again, a bloody Sunni-Shiite stalemate, accompanied by continued ethnic cleansing in mixed areas. But that, of course, is no worse than the path Iraq is already on under U.S. occupation.


Thus, even if we assume that Iraq’s parties cannot achieve some sort of reconciliation as the United States withdraws, an American pullout is hardly guaranteed to unleash unbridled chaos. On the contrary, each year since 2003 that American troops have remained in Iraq, the violence has escalated steadily.


the reality is that, in the event of an American withdrawal, the Kurds would find it exceedingly difficult either to take Kirkuk or to declare independence. An independent Kurdistan would be landlocked, surrounded by hostile nations, and would possess a weak paramilitary army incapable of matching Iran, Arab Iraq, or Turkey. If Kurdistan were to secede without gaining Kirkuk’s oil, it would not be an economically viable nation. Even with the oil, the Kurds would have to depend on pipelines through Iraq and Turkey to export any significant amount. Nor would Turkey, with its large Kurdish minority, stand for a breakaway Kurdish state, and the Kurds know that the Turkish armed forces would overwhelm them.


Not only is the worst-case scenario far from a sure thing in the event of an American withdrawal, but there is also a best-case scenario. Precisely because the idea of all-out civil war and a regional blowup involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey is so horrifying, all the political forces inside and outside Iraq have many incentives not to go there.


What most Iraqis do seem to want, according to numerous polls, is for American forces to leave. Even within the current, skewed Iraqi political system, a majority of Iraq’s parliament supports a U.S. withdrawal. If we add to the mix the powerful Sunni-led resistance, including former Baathists, Sunni nationalists, and tribes, an overwhelming majority wants to end the occupation.

This shared desire could be another crucial force in helping maintain the integrity of Iraq. The catch-22 of Iraqi politics is that any Iraqi government created or supported by the United States is instantly suspect in Iraqi eyes. By the same token, a nationalist government that succeeds in ushering U.S. forces out of Iraq would have overwhelming support from most Iraqis on most sides of the conflict.


Blogger liberal journal man said...

This is a great post.

"It’s also worth questioning whether the forces that call themselves Al Qaeda in Iraq have any real ties to whatever remains of Osama bin Laden’s weakened, Pakistan-based leadership."

There are at least a dozen separate groups working in Iraq, but when we hear about terrorism in Iraq, it's always 'Al Qaeda'. By doing so, they keep the "we're fighting there so we don't have to fight them here" rhetoric alive, and it's all baloney.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...


I have written before about this deliberate conflation of everyone who has any feelings of ill will towards the U.S. into this now meaningless term: terrorist.

But remember, these bozos are the ones who don't even know the difference between Sunni and Shiite nor which group al-Qaeda is drawn from.

Instead, we should be paying attention to people like Gen.Odom.

12:14 AM  

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