Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Incoherence and instability

Like the waiter who takes your plate away before you're finished eating, the progressive blogosphere has whisked away the "withdrawal-agreement" theme, touted only a few days ago as a victory for the left, and passes over without comment the fact that Bush has now announced only insignificant troop-reductions, (1) over a time period that extends beyond his actual term of office; and (2) makes no mention of the continuing legality or otherwise of the post-Dec troop-presence. What happened to the victory for the left?

Moreover, it seems almost as if "Mama don't 'llow no" netroots discussion of the coup warnings or the background for that ("Let's hold our horses on this one", says Sam Parker of the United States Institute of Peace). Or discussion by the military enlightenment (COIN) crowd either, in spite of the fact that what is driving the SupremeCouncil anxiety on this is the fact that the Americans seem to have had some success incorporating ex-Baath experts into the Iraqi security system.

Earning the confidence of neighborhood Sunni regimes and the domestic Sunni population has been a theme of American policy since at least the famous Hadley memo of fall 2006, and there has been vast coverage of the Awakenings and the Accord Front issues in this regard.

Now we find both SupremeCouncil and Kurdish politicians are warning of what they call a "Baathist" direction in the Iraqi security apparatus ("Baathist" sometimes in the narrow sense and more often in the broad sense meaning about what "pinko" and "comsymp" used to mean in the America of the 50s, people have pointed out), apparently brought out into the open by the Americans' arrest of Ali al-Lami, director of the De-Baathification Commission, something that crystallized for them the spectre of American cooperation with the security experts of the prior regime.

So while any accommodation with the Awakenings and the IAF have been amply and more than amply reported as play-acting and unserious, what the SupremeCouncil and the Kurds are worried about is something something they think actually did happen, and that is a degree of integration of "Baathist expertise" into the security apparatus. And this they see not as an accomplishment on the road to accommodation, rather as a red flag and a harbinger of trouble.

Moreover, there are signs that the arrest of Al-Lami and what it says about US-"Baathist" cooperation have been feeding into the bilateral-agreement standoff, because to the extent the Americans are able to arrest government officials like Al-Lami at will, naturally the government will be particularly vigilant about these "jurisdictional" points.

In America, the nightmare possibility of a fundamentalist small-town mayor becoming the most powerful person in the world--moreover as a result of the operation of the world's most wonderful democratic system--has understandably so preoccupied Democrats that it's hard for them to concentrate on something as complicated as the "withdrawal" from Iraq. It is like the conductor who beats strict time for his orchestra, then tries to make them stop while he turns the page of the score and thinks about it, then tries to start them up again. Meanwhile, just on the Kurdish front, the interlocking nature of the issues (elections, natural resources, borders, security policy) makes their solution all the more difficult, and the worst part of it is that the longer the standoff continues, the more likely it is that the populations on both sides come to see this as not a series of specific political problems, but rather as a racial issue.


Blogger annie said...

Mama don't 'llow no" netroots discussion of the coup warnings or the background for that

there is a lot mama won't allow right now. it seems the media is on full throttle rove assault mode. the disinfo brigade is working overtime.

it's rather stunning.

thanks for all your posts, i'm trying to keep up but find some of it confusing. your humor is always appreciated.

11:34 AM  
Blogger badger said...

spooky times. could be mama making this up as she goes along? That would make things confusing...

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Like the waiter who takes your plate away before you're finished eating, the progressive blogosphere has whisked away the "withdrawal-agreement" theme

The subject will come back again, as we approach the end of the year, and no agreement signed.

What happened to the victory for the left?

We are talking about realism, not a victory of the left.

The crucial point will come after the US election, in November-December, when the US is confronted with the decision: are they going to stay in Iraq illegally, against Bush's promise that the US would leave if desired by Iraq, or are they going to overturn Maliki in some way?

3:23 PM  

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