Sunday, February 15, 2009

Recycled rubbish on Iraq

Here are some gems from this morning's piece by Tom Ricks in the WaPo, followed by some translations into plain English and an Executive Summary of what he is really saying.

He says if the US forces withdraw:

(1) "The Iraqi tendency toward violent solutions will increase"

(2) "Many of those closest to the situation in Iraq expect a full-blown civil war to break out there in the coming years"

(3) "Others were concerned that Iraq was drifting toward a military takeover"

(4) "A venal political elite divorced from the population lives inside the Green Zone, while the Iraqi military outside the Zone's walls grows both more capable and closer to the people..."

(5) "The American embrace of former insurgents has created many new local power centers in Iraq, but many of the faces of those who run them remain obscure. 'We've made a lot of deals with shady guys'..."

(6) "But many U.S. soldiers who have served in Iraq believe that the biggest threat to American aspirations won't be the Iranians but the Iraqis themselves. The Iraqi military is getting better, but it is still a deeply flawed institution, even with tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers keeping an eye on it. ...'Saddam taught them [how to suppress urban populations] and we've just reinforced that lesson for four years,' he said. 'They're ready to kill people--a lot of people--in order to get stability in Iraq.'


(1) The Iraqi tendency toward violent solutions--a supposed national characteristic of all Iraqis

(2) Many of those closest to the situation in Iraq--US military people, almost all persons of completely impartial judgment, the opposite of (1). White man good, natives bad.

(3) Military takeover--by former regime officers, naturally feared by the Shiite militias who in the early days after the US invasion were devoted to hunting them down in cooperation with the US forces. These are the people the US has now been pressing Maliki to re-incorporate into the Iraqi military.

(4) A venal political elite--this is where Ricks agrees with the armed resistance. The difference is that he tells us the threat to this venal elite comes not from armed resistance, but from an increasingly competent Iraqi military.

(5) But wait! The Iraqi military "is still a deeply flawed institution", with Saddamist origins that will re-emerge when you least expect it. This is in fact the nightmare of the SupremeCouncil and others in that venal political elite.

(6) Deals with former insurgents, aka "shady guys". He is talking about the armed resistance.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: We should worry about a resurgent armed resistance to the puppet government. This is dressed up in the familiar "all-out civil war" trappings in order to make the coming re-enactment of the occupation look like a humanitarian endeavor. The only solution is military occupation as far as the eye can see. That is Ricks' "Iraq".

As it happens, in a far-away world which is also called "Iraq" people are coming to grips with this very same issue, from a non-American perspective, and what they are talking about is how to end the corrupt and American-imposed system of sectarian slicing of the pie (Ricks' "venal political elite"), obviously without the help of the Americans, who imposed that system in the first place.

An quick-and-dirty explanation of that approach might well begin much as Ricks begins, only backwards, stressing "the American tendency to violent solutions"; as understood by "persons closest to the situation in Iraq" (namely Iraqis); too many "deals with shady guys" (like the senior US military people now (finally!) being investsigated for large-scale financial crimes, or the politicians like Hakim and Hashemi with their American connections).

And the only solution? As long as the US occupation continues, and Iraqi collaborators continue to work with it, to that extent the armed resistance will have to continue. There doesn't seem any other solution.

It is the same quick-and-dirty argument. The other side represents congenital violence, and the the fight must go on.

From the Iraqi side, there is logic and common sense to the argument--this was a violent invasion and a violent occupation--and an end-point: US withdrawal, to be accompanied by clean-up of a puppet-government system, and all of the other detritus of foreign invasion.

The idea of turning this argument on its head and talking about throwing out the occupation in terms of "civil war"--this is illogical, arrogant, and beyond all reason, and not only that but it is open-ended. The Americans will have to stay and fight in Iraq, until when--until all the Iraqis leave?

It is the feel-good, illusory argument that results from taking the battlefield perspective of military people--their lives spent in struggle against enemies, violent people, shady guys at best--and saying: "My world is the whole world. This violence is what Iraq is--there is no other Iraq". And the correct answer is: "No, that is what your America is, for you there is no other America". I think the unfolding post-Obama tragedy is just that: Ricks could be right. Maybe there is no other America.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no other America, as long as the reprobates remain in charge

9:15 AM  
Blogger badger said...

so it goes

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely interpretation.

From looking at the article, Ricks's is very much the military's point of view. Why are they putting it? Because the military wants to stay in Iraq, and they're not sure that Obama is going to go along with it.

11:57 PM  

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