Sharansky on Cutting and Running in Iraq

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Former Gulag resident, Israeli cabinet member and now think tanker Natan Sharansky has a provocative Washington Post op/ed about the consequences of a hasty U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. To wit:

As the hideous violence in Iraq continues, it has become increasingly common to hear people argue that the world was better off with Hussein in power and (even more remarkably) that Iraqis were better off under his fist. In his final interview as U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan acknowledged that Iraq "had a dictator who was brutal" but said that Iraqis under the Baathist dictatorship "had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school."

This line of argument began soon after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. By early 2004, some prominent political and intellectual leaders were arguing that women's rights, gay rights, health care and much else had suffered in post-Hussein Iraq.

Following in the footsteps of George Bernard Shaw, Walter Duranty and other Western liberals who served as willing dupes for Joseph Stalin, some members of the human rights community are whitewashing totalitarianism. A textbook example came last year from John Pace, who recently left his post as U.N. human rights chief in Iraq. "Under Saddam," he said, according to the Associated Press, "if you agreed to forgo your basic freedom of expression and thought, you were physically more or less OK."

The truth is that in totalitarian regimes, there are no human rights. Period. The media do not criticize the government. Parliaments do not check executive power. Courts do not uphold due process. And human rights groups don't file reports.

For most people, life under totalitarianism is slavery with no possibility of escape.

Sharansky cites a recent poll of more than 5,000 Iraqis finds that

…49% of those questioned preferred life under Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, to living under Saddam. Only 26% said things had been better in Saddam's era, while 16% said the two leaders were as bad as each other and the rest did not know or refused to answer.

Meanwhile, in recent polls in the United States, 77 percent of Americans say that the war in Iraq is going somewhat or very badly. And 66 percent want to reduce or completely remove all American troops in Iraq.

Sharansky also worries:

A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces could lead to a bloodbath that would make the current carnage pale by comparison. Without U.S. troops in place to quell some of the violence, Iranian-backed Shiite militias would dramatically increase their attacks on Sunnis; Sunni militias, backed by the Saudis or others, would retaliate in kind, drawing more and more of Iraq into a vicious cycle of violence. If Iraq descended into full-blown civil war, the chaos could trigger similar clashes throughout the region as Sunni-Shiite tensions spill across Iraq's borders. The death toll and the displacement of civilians could climb exponentially.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the political debate over Iraq is that many of Bush's critics, who accused his administration of going blindly to war without considering what would happen once Hussein's regime was toppled, now blindly support a policy of withdrawing from Iraq without considering what might follow.

Sharansky ends by urging that the U.S. government take human rights into account whatever it decides to do in Iraq. But he offers no suggestions about what to do other than trying to "maximize the chances" that the current "surge" of additional troops will succeed in stabilizing the situation.

One idea being pursued by some in Congress is that American forces withdraw to bases inside Iraq and allow the Iraqi military and police to take over internal security. However an unnamed official warned in another Washington Post article,

If the administration decided to have troops retreat to bases inside Iraq and not intervene in sectarian warfare, he said, the U.S. military could find itself in a position that "would make the Dutch at Srebrenica look like heroes."

The official was referencing the Serbian massacre of 8,000 men and boys that took place during the Bosnian war as Dutch soldiers stood aside.

Whole Sharansky op/ed here. Here's how a much chastened warhawk (me) envisioned an alternative to the current quagmire two years ago. And finally, here's the debate over "Forcing Freedom," featuring me, Christopher Hitchens, Chris Preble and Ivan Eland, over going to war in Iraq from the September 2003 issue of reason.

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  1. I think it would be wise not to take advice on our foreign policy in the Middle East from 1)Arabs and 2)Israelis.

  2. now blindly support a policy of withdrawing from Iraq without considering what might follow

    I know what might follow. And frankly, I don’t care. I’m not blind at all.

  3. I don’t care. I’m not blind at all.

    That’s because you’re a…humanitarian?

  4. Or, perhaps a… realist?

  5. My problem with the theory that a quick withdrawal now of U.S. troops leading to an Iraqi bloodbath is predicated on the notion that things will get better later.

  6. Plenty of people are opposed to the indefinite occupation of Iraq without being pro-Saddam or pro-Al Qaeda. This is a stupid straw man argument.

    Does Sharansky think we should invade and occupy North Korea? Zimbabwe? Cuba? If not, why is he such an apologist for Kim Jong-Il, Mugabe and Castro?

  7. That is (he said, reading his own post), what makes Sharansky or others urging a continuing U.S. military presence believe the bloodbath won’t occur whenever we finally leave?

  8. This really is a “lesser of two evils” choice. Pulling out is a catastrophe in the short term (massacres, attempts by rival factions to gain “legitimacy” by force.) Staying there leads to a slightly less odious situation on a day-by-day basis, but one that has the potential to continue in perpetuity (as no equilibrium of forces is ever reached, so no legitimacy is gained.)

    Going to the tiebreaker question, pulling out has the potential of NOT being a “tidy bloodletting” type of civil war, in which case the nastier of the two situations is ongoing for an extended period of time. But; staying there allows Iran to continue to do whatever it wants, both as a country and to our troops in Iraq.

    Correct answer is…?

    Literally, there is none.

  9. I just don’t see what “staying the course” is going to accomplish, therefore I wish we would just pull out of this fiasco. Again, I was against the war from day 1, and everything that has happened so far has simply confirmed my reservations.

    Can someone who thinks we need to “stay the course” tell me what, exactly, that’s supposed to accomplish, and how many more of our brave men and women and billions of our US dollars is going to have to be sacrificed for this nonesense???

  10. Sharansky is a former Rooskie.

    Nice to see someone acknowledge that Iraq will not immediately become a peach of a country as soon as the screen door slams on Uncle Sam’s skinny backside on his way out of the country.

    Not saying we shouldn’t withdraw, but to believe that there will be no consequences is disingenuous. Worse, to hold today’s Viet Nam up as a shiny example of what happens when we go home with our tail tucked between our legs (as RP did in that video) is just plain wrong. Viet Nam degenerated into a cesspool of chaos for a long time. Normalization is recent history.

    Just sayin’.

    Disclaimer: Still votin’ for Ron Pauly Walnuts.

  11. So the alternative to a million iraqis dying in civil war now is…..a million iraqis dying over a period of several years in a stop and start vendetta against each other, with the US jumping here and there, protecting some iraqis while they covertly slaughter the other side and the US switching to protect other Iraqis as they retaliate. No one doubts that the results of a pull out would be ugly, but no one has yet to state a good way for the US to fix the situation. This is like the stubborn man that has no idea how to fix a car, but constantly sticking a screwdriver in places seeing it it changes the situation. I really see two options

    1. Commit the entire US economy and manpower to stopping the fight between Iraqis, including forcibly drafting people to go risk their lives and dilute the population.
    2. Save more US lives and let the Iraq civil war conduct itself accordingly.

    There is a misheld belief that the US needs to step in to every world conflict and fix it, but to be honest, we don’t have the ability to because we can only take half measures do to our own democratic restraint. Sure, if we gave Bush carte blanche to tactically nuke parts of Iraq, Iran, North Korea, etc, we could enforce our will on other temporarily, but then that argument puts neocons in sputtering disbelief at the arguers callousness and leads to more suggestions of half-measures and other such stupidity. Its time people woke up to the reality of the situation and the reality is, we don’t have the will to win over Iraq, to kill the number of people necessary to establish order. We have a vague notion that they will come to love us and form a happy secular government and develop snooty liberal institutions, but thats not the reality of war. The reality of war is the destruction ravaged on Germany, the complete and utter demoralization of the enemy by saturation of force that we are not willing to do. So I say, get out or slit every congressman’s throat and commit every resource we have to stabilizing the nation, because those are the only two options we’re left with.

  12. I hesitate to post this comment, because I know if I do, Iraq will descend into chaos and thousands will die.

  13. If Sharanasky does not believe that Iraq is in the midst of a “full blown” civil war right now, I think his analysis should be heavily discounted. He is correct when he states there were no rights under Sadam, but that does not mean it is our (the U.S.) job to go and impose rights. Furthermore, the fighting that is occurring in Iraq right now is not merely Shia vs. Sunni; it is much more complex than that. It is Shia vs. Shia vs. Sunni vs. Sunni vs. Al Qaeda, etc. Also, the notion that Iraqis need military training be the Iranians is somewhat laughable. Iraq had one of the largest standing armies in the world. Although the Iraqi army was no match for the U.S. or U.K., it was good enough to teach hundreds of thousands of men how to fire rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, and mortars (as well as how to use explosives.)

    Regards,
    TDL

  14. I’m with MP here.

    The entire “aftermath” argument is a moral deception. It’s an attempt by the war party to trap everyone else into accepting complicity in their errors.

    If we withdraw from Iraq and Very Bad Things happen, those Very Bad Things will be the moral responsibility of George Bush, his supporters in Congress, and Republican voters in 2000 and 2004.

  15. If the US withdraws then it loses control over the terms on which Iraq’s oil is sold. I believe that factor will prevent any sort of withdrawal from taking place.

    Sharansky’s humanitarian concerns for the Muslims of Iraq are duly noted.

  16. TWC – for the record, I wasn’t trying to say that things will be great if we get out of Iraq, I was simply asking what staying there was going to accomplish.

  17. Sharansky likes to talk about how great democracy is, but when Hammas won in the Parliamentary elections in Palestine he was for cutting off all aid and negotiations with the Palestinians to punish them, because they chose the wrong party.

    So much for his faith in “democracy”.

  18. Iraqi civil war?

    Who cares? Not me.

    Let them kill each other. Let Iran and Saudi Arabia get involved. Hell, let the whole region go up in a powder keg of religious zealotry!

    The more they fight each other the less they fight us. The more they kill each other the less of them there are to kill us.

    Perhaps after enough violence and death Islam will have it’s “enlightenment”, exactly as happened with Christianity.

    Time to make popcorn!

  19. I’m with Fluffy, though I’d exclude Republican voters in 2000.

  20. I see arguments like this come up all the time.

    If only *blank* had done something, we wouldn’t have had (name a massacre):
    Rwanda (hutus and tutsis)
    Uganda (“Last King of Scotland”)
    Yugoslavia (Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, etc)
    Tibet (China slaughtering thousands of Dali Lhamaists)
    Iraq (gassing Kurds)
    Columbia (paramilitaries kidnapping and killing thousands of civilians)


    The list could go on. Someone always COULD have stopped a certain event from happening, but a new event would have happened in any case. The more the western world picks winners and losers in the developing nations, the more developing nations will continue to torment each other, thinking they were blessed by some holy power (US, UK, USSR, etc) and the less they will think to solve their own problems. its a never ending cycle, Iraq being just another event in it. We whine and plead to our leaders to do something, but we never want to acknowledge the true cost of interfering, leading to more misery and pain, for us mentally and third world dezenins physically. We need to stop, because I think further involvement drags our republic down to a baser level (as we can already see evidenced by our growing imperial presidency). We need to give up correcting the wrongs on a large scale and focus on what we can do (trade and talk). It will be a long and painful process, but the only one I feel leads to eventual peace.

    Feel free to yell at me, I care less and less every day about what the average American thinks of me.

  21. I blame Mohammed.
    That pesky freak has ruined it for peace-loving mystics everywhere.

  22. Expressed in terms of outcome, the alternatives are:

    1) Withdraw now and watch Iraq descend further into a chaotic civil war with tens of thousands dead.
    2) Stay, at the cost of several thousand more American lives and another half trillion dollars, until some illusion of stability is achieved, then withdraw and watch Iraq descend further into a chaotic civil war with tens of thousands dead.

    Overall, I’ll take what’s behind door #1.

    There is, granted, a slight possibility that the Iraqis might achieve a stable, peaceful solution, but that possibility is present in either scenario. Not to mention that the resented presence of foriegn troops may itself be a destabilizing factor. (NOBODY likes having foriegn troops in their country, however benign the presence.)

  23. Just to note, arguing over loss of oil production is the lowest form of persuasion I’ve ever seen and whether or not its true (which we will never prove), it is unworthy to be talked about in light of the continuing disaster that is Iraq. If ever one of the candidates uses that line of arguement in his campaign or talks about the conomic consequences of pulling out of Iraq, I’ll start loading my shotguns to end that. Nothing makes me madder than someone trying to rationalize a tragedy caused by talking about the minor consequences.

  24. It is not a contradiction to continue to argue against the Iraq War and occupation and to argue that Iraq is far better off now than under Saddam. That is Sharansky’s false dichotomy.

    Sharansky also presupposes civil war in a situation that, historically, has produced detente. It is multi-polar environments that lead to war, where there is uncertainty about whose side a given powerful entity will come down on. What we have now is multi-polar, with the US as the wild card to be manipulated. With the US out of the picture, the only wild card is Kurdish Iraq, which may likely do enough of a Switzerland imitation to keep things in a stable bi-polarity.

    Also, the “withrdraw to bases” idea was one that I floated here many a moon ago, only to be called a logistically ignorant civilian. As far as the Srebrenica comparison goes, at least our troops would be in a position to make the same mistake as the Dutch troops. Back in Germany, they’ll be morally free of the opportunity to demonstrate that anyone could learn from Srebrenica.

  25. ktc2, let me join you in that popcorn. Everyone, make sure you hold onto your energy stocks!

  26. I care less and less every day about what the average American thinks of me.

    Good for you. Really. The “average American” has always seemed to me as being quite ignorant and just plain dumb.

  27. HEY RIMFAX! YOU LOGISTICALLY IGNORANT CIVILIAN! GET BACK TO YOUR DAVE MATTHEWS PLAIN WHITE Ts LISTENING DURANDURAN ALTERNATIVE FRAT HOUSE, YOU BUM!

  28. I’m curious why Sharansky thinks that a nation on the brink of a bloody religious civil war is capable of democratic reforms no matter how long we stay.

    We would have had a better chance in Iraq if we hadn’t left Afghanistan in the lurch. (That’s a good question–where were these people when we more or less abandoned the Afghans to their own devices?)

  29. “…some members of the human rights community are whitewashing totalitarianism.”

    Who?

    “John Pace, who recently left his post as U.N. human rights chief in Iraq. “Under Saddam,” he said, according to the Associated Press, “if you agreed to forgo your basic freedom of expression and thought, you were physically more or less OK.”

    Is that really a “textbook example” of whitewashing totalitarianism?

    I suppose there’s an argument for reading it like that, but that argument’d be easier to swallow minus this bit:

    “A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces could lead to a bloodbath that would make the current carnage pale by comparison.”

    So should someone now accuse Sharansky of whitewashing life under the occupation? …of course not.

    By the way, I remember using this argument against the invasion. I am not in a place to make the decision for ordinary Iraqis as to whether they’d rather suffer an occupation and bloodbath or live under a totalitarian regime…

    “Perhaps the greatest irony of the political debate over Iraq is that many of Bush’s critics, who accused his administration of going blindly to war without considering what would happen once Hussein’s regime was toppled, now blindly support a policy of withdrawing from Iraq without considering what might follow.”

    …but I can speak up for what I think to be in the best interests of the people of the United States.

    There’s nothing ironic about knowing ahead of time that you’re not willing to leave your troops to camp on a powder keg, knowing that the fuse has already been lit.

  30. The proper course of action would be to pull out of Iraq, kill everyone there with nuclear weapons because they caused 9-11, then pump out all of the oil and bring it to the US where it writefully belongs.

  31. If ever one of the candidates uses that line of arguement in his campaign or talks about the economic consequences of pulling out of Iraq

    Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that, Lost_In_Translation. Both major parties want you to believe that oil is a minor issue and is not driving US involvement in Iraq. The media would have you believe that, too.

    What you are supposed to believe is that the Iraq War is about what is best for our troops and the Iraqi people.

  32. rho – as a Canadian I take a little offense there as my boys are over there doing all they can, but your point is taken.
    Why is it though that everyone is asking what the military solution is (stay/go, fight more/shoot less) vs. what the ‘actual’ solution should be. No one is going to bring the Sunnis and Shites to the table to talk…but currently the US has the military muscle to enforce any ideas that they might have. But I don’t hear anyone talking about it.
    It may well be that Iraq can’t exist anymore. There needs to be 2 countries for the respective ‘viewpoints’ (read: religions) and Baghdad and surrounding area declared a sort of DMZ that can be secured and be open to everyone but claimed by no one.
    I’m sure that’s not the answer…but there has to be something better than pick one side to back and go to war against the other. That hasn’t worked out so well in the past.

  33. …they could go out, their kids could go to school.

    How ’bout the trains? On time?

  34. The dire predictions about blood baths always strike me as only telling part of the story. It’s probably accurate, but it’s meant to be a debate stopper.

    Would the blood bath be a permanent state of affairs?
    Would it spill over into neighboring countries?
    Would the end of the blood bath be a state of continued blood letting to Israel and Palestine?
    Would the inevitably divided up Iraq be more stable than a unified Iraq?
    Can there be a unified Iraq without a dictatorship to crush factional warfare?

    Right now I see three ugly choices:
    1) Get out and deal with a blood bath.
    2) Turn into executors ourselves and issue our own blood bath.
    3) Continue occupation with what comparatively would be a blood letting that in the end could cumulatively be called blood bath – though without one single gorious event.

  35. “3) Continue occupation with what comparatively would be a blood letting that in the end could cumulatively be called blood bath – though without one single gorious event.”

    And that choice would take no telling how long and lead to no telling how many American caualties.

  36. Ah, Low, I wasn’t getting after you at all. In fact, I mostly agree with you. Staying the course will accomplish nothing. I used to be a lukewarm fence sitter on this Iraq thing. However, like many Americans these days, you can stick a fork in my ample bicep because I’M DONE.

    I’m just pointing out that Dave Weigel (a few weeks ago) and RP (over the weekend) are mistaken to believe that when we walk everything will be roses and rainbows.

  37. “3) Continue occupation with what comparatively would be a blood letting that in the end could cumulatively be called blood bath – though without one single gorious event.”

    Somebody could typify what’s going on right now as a bloodbath. …it’s all relative, I guess.

    My understanding is that the place is already balkanizing. That Sunnis are bugging out of Shia areas and visa versa. I haven’t heard anyone express this as a viable strategy, but I think that’s what’s bangin’ around in the back of some of these occupation supporter’s heads–the idea that the longer we stay, the more time we give people to sort themselves by ethnicity.

    …like they think the more divided they are ethnically, the smaller the conflagration will be when we leave.

    I think there’s a case to make, though, that the more they segregate themselves, the more likely they are to attack each other. I don’t know what passes for logic in the mind of a terrorist, but if we’re talking about ethnic terrorism, I suspect it’s easier to get people to plant bombs in a crowded market if they think everyone in the market is probably of the enemy’s ethnicity.

    I was the first guy I knew to call for a three state solution, but that was to find a way to bring legitimacy to the Iraqi government. I think the argument against the three state solution was that aiding in balkanization might lend legitimacy to the governments, but it would also lend itself to ethnic violence. I’d counter that that was probably going to happen anyway, so we might as well pin our hopes on legitimate governments to help mitigate the violence. …but now that we seem to have failed to bring legitimacy to the Iraqi government (or so it seems to me), I guess it’s a moot point.

  38. Bromo has a point. Let’s divvy the place up and bail. Then, they can either work it out or not.

  39. Did Sharansky simply reread an already existing White House speech or did he paraphrase it in his own words so Teacher wouldn’t nick him for plagiarism?

  40. I’m with Fluffy, though I’d exclude Republican voters in 2000.

    Indeed. In 2000, he seemed to be little more than a shallow bumbler, likely to accomplish little or nothing (which would have been great!).

  41. “…but I can speak up for what I think to be in the best interests of the people of the United States.

    Anyone else see the reports linking Sadr to Hezbollah?

    If those reports are true, and Al Sadr is typical of those who wield the power in the Iraqi government, then I sincerely hope that we have failed to bring his government legitimacy.

    I’d always argued that it was people like Sadr who were bestowing legitimacy on the Iraqi government–in Iraqi eyes–rather than visa versa. Regardless, it’s one thing if we’re fighting against Al Qaeda, quite another if the good guys are… …if we end up fighting, effectively, for legitimizing people like Hezbollah.

    “Perhaps the greatest irony of the political debate over Iraq is that many of Bush’s critics, who accused his administration of going blindly to war without considering what would happen once Hussein’s regime was toppled, now blindly support a policy of withdrawing from Iraq without considering what might follow.”

    If Sharansky wants to persuade the American people to stay the course, then maybe he should concentrate on making us feel better about what might happen if the Iraqi government succeeds.

  42. Might it have been worth mentioning that Sharansky was one of the loudest voices calling for this war, and asserting that liberal democracy and stability would quickly arise on their own in aftermath of Saddam’s overthrow, back in 02-03?

    Then again, the manner is which he waves away the arguments and evidence of his opponents by calling them names and accusing them of being BFFE with Saddam Hussein pretty effectively makes that point by itself.

  43. There is a bloodbath going on now, and it continues to get worse with each passing day.

    Withdrawing US troops, as part of a political and diplomatic effort, is the only plausible path for achieving the political solution that everyone now realizes is the only way to avoid that catastrophe.

    “Shoot enough bad guys and everything will be fine” is a strategy that was a proven failure three years ago, but it’s the only one Sharansky’s got. That’s why we need to ignore him, not matter how rich a lather he can work himself into.

  44. “Indeed. In 2000, he seemed to be little more than a shallow bumbler, likely to accomplish little or nothing (which would have been great!).”

    He also ran on a platform of no nation building.

  45. I can imagine a picture of Uncle Sam holding a big pile of shit with both hands and the caption reads, “what the hell am I suppose to do with this?” Bush is walking away in the background singing “ain’t my problem now”

  46. You missed your calling, TrickyVic.

  47. Let’s divvy the place up and bail.

    I would agree.
    Balkanization gets a bad rap. Let’s give it another try.
    Besides, we’re gonna need the cash for our free healthcare.

  48. Something I heard on WCBS radio last night I haven’t seen reported 1. This weekend attacks have brought the Iraq government on the verge of collapse, so members of the government are saying. 2. There is a no-confidence vote coming on Maliki later this month, they are expecting to oust him. The Iraq government is losing faith on our ability to secure them (from themselves I must add).

    I would not be surprised if we withdraw 1/2 our troops by March 08, then the Iraqis will feel betrayed and vote to send the rest of American troops out of the country. Including those left to fight AQ.

    The Iraqis are really getting pissed at our failures, OH THE IRONY!!

  49. Then again – maybe we just let Turkey handle things…
    Iraq says Turkey has 140,000 soldiers along its border with the country’s north as part of a “great mobilisation”.

    Turkey’s armed forces have urged its Government to allow an incursion into neighbouring, mainly Kurdish northern Iraq to crush up to 4,000 Turkish Kurdish militants who use the region as a base to attack security and civilian targets inside Turkey.

    Rumours of a possible Turkish incursion have rattled financial markets and have drawn warnings from the US, Ankara’s NATO ally, to stay out of Iraq.

    Tensions have soared along the mountainous border region following an upsurge in attacks across Turkey that Ankara has blamed on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.

    And not to be outdone, AQ wants to branch out to Iran…but not in a good way.

    source: abc.net.au/news/

  50. Before we green light the Turks let’s check with the Armenians.

  51. It is only out determination to cling to the fantasy of a “stable, democratic, unified Iraqi government that respects human rights and is an ally in the War on Terror” that keeps us from giving the Kurds a security guarantee, bromo98.

    We don’t have a choice as to whether Arab Iraq ends up a killing field under some dictator’s boot, but for now, we still have a choice as to whether Kurdistan ends up part of that disaster.

    If we’re flying helicopters off the embassy roof in two years because we refused to reset our goals and behave in a responsible manner, we’re not going to have that choice.

    Defending democracy means defending democracies.

  52. Yes, we took an ally, Turkey, and fucked them over so we could have bases in northern Iraq by supporting the Kurds – ’cause the world needs another nationalistic Muslim state.

    Unless US Forces are willing to stack pyramids of skulls wherever an IED goes off, we need to leave. Now. And not look back. We didn’t make those people hate each other, and we won’t keep them from killing each other. A civil war is, basically, a domestic assault call writ large – and when the police show up, no one is on their side. I feel bad for any Iraqis who want to live in peace with their neighbors, but I didn’t invade their country and I didn’t want it invaded. Maybe after a couple decades of civil war everyone will realize how much nicer peace is and have a real government. Or maybe the Iranians will invade and unite Iraq that way – probably the only way Iraq would unite, actually.

  53. Iraq was carved out of the Ottoman Empire by the British after World War I. They didn’t take into consideration the powder keg they were creating by putting Shites, Sunnis, and Kurds within one country. Saddam was able to keep this powder keg together with his strong rule, but with him gone thanks to us, all hell has broken loose. Maybe there’s something to be said about splitting up the country 3 ways. Turkey, however, doesn’t want that. If the Kurds in Iraq get their independence, then the Kurds in Turkey will want to break off and create a new Kurdistan with the Kurds from Iraq.

  54. Rattlesnake Jake,

    Actually, some have suggested that the Brits knew exactly what they were doing when they mixed ethnic groups and put minority monarchs into power – deliberately spiking the opportunity for a national polity to arise, and keeping the post-colonial states weak.

    As far as Kurdistan, it’s going to take some high-octane Taiwan-style doubletalk to keep everyone on this side of full mobilization. I propose we nominate John Kerry to explain Kurdistan’s legal status.

    “I have been absolutely clear, right from the beginning…”

  55. My thoughts a couple of years back on the 3-state solution.

    Observation: Balkanization seems to working OK (along with NATO troops) in the Balkans.

  56. joe, your proposal has some merits, and I’ve always said that I would support it, but I’ve been quite clear in saying that it is unworkable in the context in which it will be executed, unless changes are made, which are consistent with the original plan.

    Now delicately translate that into probably 4 different languages (at least), and we should be able to please just about everybody in the regions.

  57. I just read that al Queda has threatened Iran with war if they don’t stop supporting the Shiites in Iraq within 2 months.

  58. Hey Jake, post a link, I want to read that one.

  59. Rattlesnake Jake,

    Was that “Al Qaeda” or “Al Qaeda in Iraq?”

    Very different groups, very different implications.

  60. Maybe bin Laden will use his secret nukes against Iran.

  61. TWC – didn’t think you were picking on me, I just wanted to be clear.

    joe – I would imagine that the Brits did, indeed, have that in mind when they created Iraq. Now, what were the reasons for giving Palestine to the Jewish people? Weren’t the Brits a big part of that, as well? Maybe something of a similar motive, who knows?

    I don’t know, but the “split it up 3 ways” thing seems to be at least a solution…”staying the course”, not so much.

  62. 49% of Iraqis saying the prefer the current situation to what the Israeli calls “slavery with no possibility of escape” is not very impressive, especially when you consider that large numbers of Iraqis have already voted against “liberation” with their feet, fleeing to safer countries like Syria.

  63. fleeing to safer countries like Syria.

    Whoa! THAT sets up some serious cognitive dissonance.

    [shakes head briskly, calls for more wine]

  64. OK I’ll be the lone war hawk on this thread.

    I believe we should stay the course.

    Well not stay the course, we should make major adjustments, but we should be in it to win it.

    Some of the adjustments that I think we should make are already being made.

    I think that a majority of Iraqis don’t want to live in an Islamist state. Most didn’t like Saddam either.

  65. The Iraqis are really getting pissed at our failures, OH THE IRONY!!

    Not really, we got rid of their security apparatus that protected them from Al Qaida, from the Iranians, the Syrians, and the Turks.

    And we didn’t replace it with anything that could remotely do the job.

    We have the big guns, and the money, and we call the shots, and we seem to be very inefficient at keeping the bad guys at bay and defending the average Iraqis and/or allowing them to defend themselves.

    I am mad at our failures.

  66. and Ron Bailey,

    Should we invade part of turkey (and Iran and Syria) and free the oppressed Kurds there too? Or allow Turkey to invade Kurdistan and oppress a whole lot more Kurds in the interest of regional stability?

    Actually personally the first Idea doesn’t seem that bad. The Kurds so far seem to be our truest allies in the whole region, that includes Israel.

  67. Lowdog,

    To be accurate, the Brits only gave the Zionists half of Palestine, the half where they were already a majority. Ever seen the 1949 maps? Obviously, great care was taken to be sensitive to community compositio in the drawing of the lines.

    Why Palestine for the Jewish state? Because that’s where the Jews where, and where they were rising up demanding a state. It wasn’t Downing Street that came up with that idea.

  68. The Kurds so far seem to be our truest allies in the whole region, that includes Israel.

    Damn straight, kwais.

  69. Didn’t we kind of force the Brits’s hand in this too?

    I remember a thing on the discovery Channel about the Brits not being to excited about it, but it was recently after WW2, and they only had food at their table because we brought it, so they caved.

    Also in the discovery Channel thing was that when the first Arab Israeli war broke out, the Jordanians were kicking the Israeli’s butt, until the Brits double crossed them at our behest.

    Gary Gunnels, where are you at? Straighten me out would you?

  70. ok, my last post was about Joe’s Zionist and Palestine comment. The Brits in Israel, if it is confusing to anyone.

    It is not about the Brits in Iraq.

  71. “Gary Gunnels, where are you at? Straighten me out would you?”

    Forgive him, Lord, he knows not what he says….

  72. kwais,

    The proto-Israelis forced the Brits’ hand all by themselves.

    You think England was going to use its army a few years after the end of World War 2 to put down a rebellion by European Jews who’d fled Europe before, during, and in the aftermath of the Holocaust?

    The Israelis won their independence from colonial Britain fair and square.

  73. Should we invade part of turkey (and Iran and Syria) and free the oppressed Kurds there too?

    If that idea doesn’t sound bad to you, (a) you haven’t been paying attention for the past four years or so, and (b) you haven’t considered the fact that the NATO charter would require Canada, the UK, Germany, and the rest of NATO to declare war on us.

  74. joe,

    So, if Jewish terrorists/freedom fighters violently rebelling against the British was winning fair and square, what’s our problem with Palestinians turning the tables on the Israelis?

    I don’t know if this makes me an anti-Semite, but every time I hear the Holocaust offered as an excuse for Jewish thuggery, I vomit my kosher hot dog into my mouth.

  75. crimethink,

    I think that both parties have a legitimate claim.

    My problem with the Palestinians isn’t that they use violence in their struggle for independence for themselves, but that they have heretofore refused to accept that outcome as their goal.

    And, obviously, the deliberate mass murder of civilians as a tactic in that struggle is a problem for me, too.

  76. For those of you concerned with whether we should split it up three ways, give the Iraqi constitution a read, parts of it read like a divorce agreement. …They’ve already agreed to split and how they’re going to split. Although the Sunni street really isn’t on board.

    To kwais…

    I can’t argue with you about this stuff. …it makes me feel like a royal asshole, so I just don’t do it.

    God bless everyone who’s helped the good people of Iraq and protected us from terrorism.

  77. I never heard of a blog called GULAG this Sharansky fellow is a member of. Link please?

  78. “””Not really, we got rid of their security apparatus that protected them from Al Qaida, from the Iranians, the Syrians, and the Turks.

    And we didn’t replace it with anything that could remotely do the job.”””

    AQ and the others are not half the problem. Iraqi vs. Iraqi violence is the biggest problem. How they behave is their fault. It’s their fault they are corrupt, not ours. It’s their fault, not our bad training that has failed their police and military. That’s not to excuse our failures, but the Iraqis could have a considerable amount of peace if they stop attacking each other. We are trying to protect them from themselves.

    We replaced Saddams military of Iraqi citizens with a miltary of Iraqi citizen and trained them. They don’t want to do the job, that’s not our fault. But we do have to deal with it since we made it our buisness.

    I don’t think pointing fingers is a solution, but the solution does not start with correcting our failures, but theirs and only they can do that.

  79. Expressed in terms of outcome, the alternatives are:

    1) Withdraw now and watch Iraq descend further into a chaotic civil war with tens of thousands dead.
    2) Stay, at the cost of several thousand more American lives and another half trillion dollars, until some illusion of stability is achieved, then withdraw and watch Iraq descend further into a chaotic civil war with tens of thousands dead.

    Nice summation. There are no good alternatives. Leaving could lead to a bloodbath, though I believe it would be over quickly as the Shia would pulverize the numerically inferior Sunni, and staying is just a slow motion bloodbath that includes numerous American casualties.

    One thing is certain, though. Those that led us into this didn’t have a clue. Besides the politicians Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, the out-to-lunch pundits and “opinion leaders” like Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, Fox News, Michael Ledeen and others too numerous to mention are a disgrace and should never be listened to again.

  80. Tricky Vic,

    AQ and the others are not half the problem. Iraqi vs. Iraqi violence is the biggest problem.

    That’s like saying “It’s not the faulty wiring that’s the problem in that house fire. The burning furniture and structural timbers that are the problem.”

    There was little Iraqi on Iraqi violence prior to al Qaeda’s successful campaign to provoke a civil war by committing atrocities against Shiite civilians and religious sites. Even George Bush has acknowledged this.

    If a few thousands black separatists spent three years committing mass murders of white people and blowing up white Baptist churches, would white America take the bait, the way the Iraqi Shiites did? Yes, very likely they would, and it would only take a few of them doing so for the counter-response and counter-counter-responses to escalate into an irreversable cycle of violence.

  81. There is the possibility, Pug, that our leaving could have an effect more similar to the Brits’ demilitarization in Ireland – splitting off the most radical factions on both sides and allowing the relative moderates to cooperate in the formation of a center.

    Granted, this would have had a better shot of working two or three years ago, but there’s still hope.

  82. Joe, Pug,

    There is also a possibility that our leaving will help eliminate (as much as possible) al-Qaeda in Iraq. If al-Qaeda is not in Iraq to fight Americans, the Iraqis will be a lot less interested in having them around (this is happening in Anbar province). That, along with your point (Ireland) and the “take the training wheels off, it’s time to ride on your own” philosophy might make Iraq less of a bloodbath / terrorist haven than some think. Although we should all be honest and say none of us has a clue. War is always unpredictable. That is why it should not be taken lightly (see US in Iraq, 2003).

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