Zakaria against the Iraqi People

Rethinking Iraq: The War Forward,” by Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, 6 November 2006, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/003912.html (from Thomas P.M. Barnett).

Bad advice, of the type usually reserved for Cole’s netroots and Robb’s guerrillas, from Fareed Zakaria:

With all the troops in the world, America could not forge a new national compact for Iraq. That is a task for the Iraqi leadership. The outlines of the deal that needs to be made are by now obvious. Iraq would end up a loose confederation, but would divide its oil revenue so that all three regions were invested in the new nation. A broad amnesty would be granted to all those who have waged war, which means mainly the Sunni insurgents, but also members of Shia death squads. Government and state-sector jobs, the largest share of employment in Iraq, would be distributed to all three communities, which would entail a reversal of the postinvasion purges that swept up, for example, schoolteachers who happened to be members of the Baath Party. Finally, and perhaps most urgently, the Shia militias must be disbanded or, if that becomes impossible, incorporated and tamed into national institutions.

The reason we have the insurgency we have today is because of Sunni Arab terrorists. Whether Baathi, Qaedi, or just plain tribalist, since the fall of Saddam Hussein the Iraqi people have been terrorized by cells hosted by the Sunni Arab population. Sunni Arabs are a small minority in Iraq…

medium_ethnic_composition_of_iraq.jpg

… yet that population’s enthusiastic support for murderous tyranny has sparked the Citizen’s Watch organizations we see today. Because these vigilence organizations are actually effective at ending terror — in a way that appeasement is not — the chattering classes of course come out against them:

What is equally obvious is that such a deal does not seem to be at hand. The Shia leadership remains extremely resistant to any concessions to its former Sunni overlords. The Shia politicians I met when in Baghdad, even the most urbane and educated, seemed dead set against sharing power in any real sense. In an interview with Reuters last week, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also said he believed that if Iraqi troops were left to their own devices, they could establish order in six months in Iraq. It is not difficult to imagine what he means: Shia would crush Sunni, and that would be that. This notion—that military force, rather than political accommodation, could defeat the insurgency—is widely shared among senior Shia leaders. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the single largest political party in Parliament, has made similar statements in the past. While they will occasionally say the right things, as Maliki did in his first week in office, their reluctance to fund projects in Sunni areas, or to investigate death squads, suggests they have little appetite for broader national reconciliation

I’m glad Prime Minister Maliki stated what I said earlier this year: al Qaeda in Iraq loses as soon as the Americans leave. al Qaeda in Iraq survives only as long as we stay in Iraq.

To repeat:
1. The Sunni Arab population, a small minority, hosts cells which terrorist the 85% of the population that suffered under Saddam Hussein
2. Western appeasement of terrorists has only increased the misery of Iraqis
3. Everyday Iraqis have formed vigilance committees to protect themselves, their families, and their property — something America has been unwilling to do
4. Western pundits conclude the best policy going forward is appeasement

Zakaria’s “strategy” is as morally bankrupt as America’s current strategy in Iraq: appease, appease, appease.

Fortunately, it is doubtful that American chamberlains will be able to do their evil much longer: the future is coming on.

4 thoughts on “Zakaria against the Iraqi People”

  1. I sure you understand the U.S.'s reticence at letting the Iraqis do the job on their own: crushing the Sunnis would be literally that. The shi'ite militias right now are not going after Sunni supporters of terrorist cells, they are committing attrocities upon any Sunnis (and on some Shi'ites, as they did when they controlled Najaf).
    Are we to replace tyranny of the minority with tyranny of the majority? (maybe, now, we have no choice, but that doesn't make it not distasteful)

  2. ElamBend,

    First, we must ask: why is this war being fought? For what end? For what goal?

    To me, there are two basic protagonists in this struggle.

    The Iraqi People
    The American Nation

    At the risk of “forgetting Poland” [1], these are the “good guys.” Likewise, there are two basic antagonists of this struggle

    al Baath
    al Qaeda

    Numerous other thugs and nogoodnicks exist, but al Qaeda is our enemy in this war against terrorism, and al Baath is the organization which fought us for a decade.

    Therefore, it seems to be that a sane foreign policy would seek to benefit the Iraqi People and the American Nation as much as possible while injuring al Baath and al Qaeda as much as possible. Additionally, most of America's interests can be gained by securing the Iraqi people and destroying al Baath and al Qaeda.

    Why, then, do we not let the Iraqi people, through their government, destroy al Baath and al Qaeda?

    The answer that puts the Administration in the most generous light is: we are more interested in frustrated Iran's interests (and particularly their need to secure Iraq and defeat the Baath) than we are in pursuing our own. The answer that the news presents, that the Bush administration is merely hopelessly lost and trying to cobble together a politically-correct peace, may also be true. Another possible answer: that we are worried about collateral damage among our enemies but not our friends, would indicate a crippling moral weakness.

    Either way, the failure to secure Iraq and defeat al-Baath and al-Qaeda is deeply disturbing.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_forgot_Poland

  3. I don't know. A lot seems to hinge on which Shiites are actually in control after we leave and who's funneling arms to whom. If it's the moderates in charge, you may be right, but if it's the hardliners in charge, or if Iraq's neighbors decide to support the hardliners to keep things stirred up, things could get even uglier.

    As far as this being Al Qaeda's Vietnam, that depends on what their goals in Iraq are besides fighting us.

  4. Michael,

    I do not see either the Mahdi Army, Dawa, or SCIRI funneling weapons to al Qaeda. Sadr more thuggish than Hakim, but if anything the hardliners are more opposed to the Qaedists than the “moderates.”

    al Qaeda's grand strategy appears to be to force the United States to abandon secular governments, which would in turn allow [Sunni] Islamic revolutions throughout the Arab middle east. However, American “withdrawal” in Iraq means infinitely more dangerous Shia Iranian encroachment.

    Embracing Monotheism & Jihad as “al Qaeda in Iraq” was a great mistake on bin Laden and al Zawahiri's part. It was the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Because al Qaeda's screw-ups have been greater than ours, we are on the verge of an overwhelming victory. I wonder if all wars are determined this way…

  5. I don't think I expressed myself very well.

    1. I'm not particularly worried about Mahdi & Co supporting Al Qaeda. I am worried by the notion of them gaining enough power to expand their current religious-cleansing activities to the whole country. An unpleasant prospect in it's own right, and one that could lead to wider Sunni-Shiite conflict.

    2. If Al Qaeda's goal is explicitly the establishment of a Sunni Caliphate in Iraq, then Iranian involvement would be unwelcome. But what if wider Sunni-Shiite conflict is their goal? They wouldn't get Iraq (at least, not right away), but several other Sunni countries would be weakened and easier to take over.
    Granted, I'm assuming here that they're far enough underground to leave Iraq easily once the bloodbath starts, or that their allies in the other Gulf states could do without them if necessary. If they're not, then your assessment is right; Iraq is their Vietnam, if not their Waterloo.

    3. This is more speculative than the other points; I haven't seen anyone else talk about this, so I don't know if my impressions are accurate. As I recall, much of Iran's oil is in a border province occupied mainly by Shiite Arabs; if they lost that province, they would lose much of their economy. It's not hard to imagine their being worried that a Shiite Arab-dominated Iraq could threaten their control of the province. If they thought they could keep Iraq stirred up enough to keep the Arabs weak, but not enough to trigger large refugee flows or a wider war, the temptation would be to do so.

    In summary, I think Mr Zakaria's right in thinking that regional deal cutting could be valuable to an Iraq peace settlement. Even if that isn't the case, it may be necessary to preventing a wider war. So, did I miss anything?

  6. Michael,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Before the Iraq War, I criticized those who wanted “peace” by saying there was no peace. Saddam Hussein was at war with his own people. Not invading would have minimized our involvement, but it would not have helped contain the Sunni-Shia conflict.

    The same is true now. An “expanded Sunni-Shia” conflict in the Gulf area essentially means the internationalization of Saudi Arabia's brutal oppression of the Arab Shia. [1] I don't see this as a bad thing.

    Sunni Arab regimes that do not have significant Shia minorities already have a convenient scape-goat for their troubles: Israel. If they wish to start including the Shia as well as the Jews, it's little more than insult added to injury. Syria is a Sunni Arab state ruled by a small sect of Shia Islam largely opposed by the Muslim Brothers. As the Brothers do well in fair elections, helping them and hurting the Baathists is a good thing. [2]

    There was hope among some, not least the Bush Administration, that the Pan-Arabism of Iraqi Shia would outweigh their Pan-Shiism. That's why we pushed Shia leaders who were hostile to Iran, such as Iyad Allawi , once we were in a position to betray those who did the hard work (Chalabi, etc.). Sadly for Bush et al., it appears that the racism of the past was a passing phenomena.

    Zakaria's suggestion manages to roll-back the effects of the Iraq War as much as feasible, replacing the rule of people with the rule of despots. If honestly implemented, it would be a disaster.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/03/03/religious_freedom_in_east_arabia_-_or_-_the_saudis_are_jerks.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/08/24/a-new-middle-east-part-iv-islam-is-the-answer.html

  7. A few questions:
    1. What's the difference, in practice, between an Iraq ruled by homicidal Sunnis and an Iraq ruled by homicidal Shiites? The way I see it, the latter option isn't really going to be any better than the former (aka, the Baathists).
    2. You're talking about reducing the pressure on Israel by getting the Sunnis busy on a second front. What's to keep Iran- who's already making threats against Israel- from ramping up it's genocidal promises to keep that from happening? We leave Iraq, they abandon their Shiite clients to reduce frictions while ramping up the diplomatic and PR efforts to get the Sunni countries into their orbit.
    3. How are you going to have that globalist Kurdistan without cutting a deal between them and Turkey? Maybe also between Kurdistan and Syria and/or Iran?

  8. Michael,

    “What's the difference, in practice, between an Iraq ruled by homicidal Sunnis and an Iraq ruled by homicidal Shiites? The way I see it, the latter option isn't really going to be any better than the former (aka, the Baathists).”

    This is the sort of moral relativism that I oppose. There is a moral difference between aggression and self-defense. There is a moral difference between terrorizing a population in order to maintain power over it and attempting to end that terror. That Qaedists and Baathists hide among a willing population, and so bring death to that population, is a moral charge against them — not the Iraqi (Shia and Kurdish) people.

    “You're talking about reducing the pressure on Israel by getting the Sunnis busy on a second front. “

    I don't think so — I'm going after something larger than that: a new middle east.

    “What's to keep Iran- who's already making threats against Israel- from ramping up it's genocidal promises to keep that from happening?”

    Self-interest. Iranians, at the risk of making a generalization, are a nationalistic and proud people. The work with the Christian Armenians because it improves their stance agains the Muslim Azerbaijanis, they've worked with Israel in the past (definitely during Iran-Contra, probably during the attack on Iraq's nuclear plant) to contain Arabs. The Iranians are much easier to handle than Saddam, Qaeda, etc.

    “We leave Iraq, they abandon their Shiite clients to reduce frictions while ramping up the diplomatic and PR efforts to get the Sunni countries into their orbit.”

    This is the very first time I've heard this idea.

    “How are you going to have that globalist Kurdistan without cutting a deal between them and Turkey? Maybe also between Kurdistan and Syria and/or Iran?”

    Syria doesn't matter — Damascus is a tin-pot dictatorship unable to hold on to Lebanon.

    Iran matters a lot, but has a long and positive working relationship with the Kurds.

    Turkey clearly is a factor, but Europe has been very effective at keeping Ankara in line.

  9. “This is the sort of moral relativism that I oppose. There is a moral difference between aggression and self-defense. There is a moral difference between terrorizing a population in order to maintain power over it and attempting to end that terror. That Qaedists and Baathists hide among a willing population, and so bring death to that population, is a moral charge against them — not the Iraqi (Shia and Kurdish) people.”

    Actually, I'm not being morally relativistic. I've no problems with people defending themselves. Problem is, what happens when the Shiites defending themselves are joined by Shiites getting payback for Saddam-era atrocities, Shiites borrowing from Saddam's handbook to boost their own power, and criminals of who-knows-what-tribe hiding their actions under the cover of war? Which group will be in charge as the Shiites consolidate their hold on Iraq? If it's the moderates and self-defenders (and I have heard the new head of the Iraqi police is trying to clean things up), great. If it's one of the other groups, THEN there's a problem.

    As for the question of Sunni civilians willingly hiding and assisting Al Qaeda and Baath fighters, how many of them are that willing? If given a choice between a) sheltering them and risking retaliation by others, and b) refusing them and getting killed outright, many people would take a) hoping that they'll luck out. As for the willing collaborators, how many of them are doing it out of aggression or hatred, and how many because they fear aggression and hatred by the Shiites?

    Overall, I know war is hell on combatants and civilians alike, I just don't want to get too comfortable with it. Nor do I want to get locked into a side A good/side B bad mentality; with Saddam in irons and his regime scattered to the winds, there's plenty of good and bad to go around to ALL parties involved. That's a lot of where I'm coming from.

    Need to get going, part II of my reply tomorrow.

  10. “Problem is, what happens when the Shiites defending themselves are joined by Shiites getting payback for Saddam-era atrocities, Shiites borrowing from Saddam's handbook to boost their own power, and criminals of who-knows-what-tribe hiding their actions under the cover of war?”

    So the War in Europe became problematic when countries defending their own lives were joined by countries concerned about the global balance of power, countries that just didn't like the Germans, etc?

    Of course not — a war's justification does not depend on the benefits one receives if one ends.

    “Which group will be in charge as the Shiites consolidate their hold on Iraq? If it's the moderates and self-defenders (and I have heard the new head of the Iraqi police is trying to clean things up), great. If it's one of the other groups, THEN there's a problem.”

    You may be confusing “moderates” and “self-defenders.” Bush's policy in Iraq has discouraged moderate forces from engaging in self-defense. The reason Sadr's powerful and not just a wing of Dawa or SCIRI is that the moderate parties “responsibly” put off self-defense in the face of American discouragement.

    The sooner we actively encourage self-defnese, the more powerful the moderates can have.

    “As for the question of Sunni civilians willingly hiding and assisting Al Qaeda and Baath fighters, how many of them are that willing?”

    Probably not a higher percentage than “that willing” citizens of Dresden, “that willing” citizens of Atlanta, etc.

    “If given a choice between a) sheltering them and risking retaliation by others, and b) refusing them and getting killed outright, many people would take a) hoping that they'll luck out. As for the willing collaborators, how many of them are doing it out of aggression or hatred, and how many because they fear aggression and hatred by the Shiites?”

    By this logic we should immediately concede to any conscription army, or else we risk injuring those who would rather be home.

    “Overall, I know war is hell on combatants and civilians alike, I just don't want to get too comfortable with it. Nor do I want to get locked into a side A good/side B bad mentality; with Saddam in irons and his regime scattered to the winds, there's plenty of good and bad to go around to ALL parties involved. That's a lot of where I'm coming from.”

    To me al Qaeda definitely implies bad, and attempting to build a democracy definitely implies good.

    I'm looking forward to Part II!

  11. Sorry I'm late, had dental work yesterday which left me in a fog bank much of the afternoon.

    A misunderstanding I had earlier was that your intention was to buy Israel time with increased Sunni-Shia conflict; I mis-read your first response. My idea that puzzled you:
    >”We leave Iraq, they abandon their Shiite clients to >reduce frictions while ramping up the diplomatic and PR >efforts to get the Sunni countries into their orbit.”
    >
    >This is the very first time I've heard this idea.”
    was based on that assumption.

    I agree with your assessments of Syria, Turkey, and Iran– with a few qualms. This reply is getting long enough as is, though, so I think I'll save that for another reply.

    To get to your latest reply, my reluctance to apply good/bad labels don't apply to Al Qaeda and Democracy- I agree with you on those- they apply to the ethnic groups involved.

    Last I looked, there were still Sunnis participating in the Iraqi government, being democratic. If the Shiites refuse to give them any aid, any security, any reason to continue participating in the government, how long will it be before those democratic Sunnis disappear? How much more power does Al Qaeda and the Baath party get within the Sunni population then? They may still be defeated, but they would take a lot more Sunnis with them than if the Sunni democrats could claim success. Investing in the Sunni territories isn't appeasing Al-Qaeda, it's starving them of support.

    By the same token, while letting Shiites defend themselves is a good thing, is that necessarily defending democracy?
    http://www.d-n-i.net/fcs/pressfield_tribes.htm
    Suppose this guy is correct? If the Iraqi government isn't up to protecting the Shiites by any means other than turning a blind eye, they don't have credibility. What's to keep the militias from fighting each other and the central forces for power once the Sunnis are finished off? That's less rule of the people than rule of the mob.

    For democracy to take root, democratic governments have to be able to solve problems, for all the people. When they cannot, other parties (Al Qaeda, militias of varying degrees of nastiness) step in to fill the void.

  12. “If the Shiites refuse to give them any aid, any security, any reason to continue participating in the government, how long will it be before those democratic Sunnis disappear?”

    Security for Sunni Iraqi Arabs became problematic /after/ /years/ of Sunni Arab insurgency. In the same way, security for Southern plantation owners & their chattle became problematic /years/ into the Civil War.

    It's a difficult — and probably foolish — to have as a war-goal the security of the population you are fighting.

    “How much more power does Al Qaeda and the Baath party get within the Sunni population then? They may still be defeated, but they would take a lot more Sunnis with them than if the Sunni democrats could claim success.”

    Why do you think tihs?

    al Baath and al Qaeda have been operating within Iraqi tribes. Giving more power & prestige to those tribes means giving more power & prestige to their clients, including Baathi and Qaedi clients.

    “Investing in the Sunni territories isn't appeasing Al-Qaeda, it's starving them of support.”

    Only if the victorious Sunni elements are somehow hostile to the Baathists and the Qaedists. I think the Muslim Brothers would be, but the failure to empower these factions by Bush and his incompetent delegates has seriously weakened the war effort.

    The “moderate” tribalists are the pragmatic ones, who will work with anyone willing to provide security and capital (which Qaeda and Baath both sell). It's the Muslim Brothers who are the Sunni Arabs able to help us. It's them we should be freind.

    Pressifled is selling misguided orientalism. I dedicated a post to criticizing his op-ed [1]

    “What's to keep the militias from fighting each other and the central forces for power once the Sunnis are finished off? That's less rule of the people than rule of the mob.”

    That we should be providing money, materiel, and air cover to the government of Iraq. We should have been doing this within months instead of running Bush's incompetent, authoritarian modernist regime.

    If we were really smart we would be doing this in cooperation with the Iranians, who share our enemies in Iraq.

    “For democracy to take root, democratic governments have to be able to solve problems, for all the people.”

    No. We didn't solve the Nazis' problems. We didn't solve the Army Faction's problems.

    For democracy (meaning the sort of system we have) to take root, you need a solid middle class. For democracy (meaning majority rule) to take root, you need the government to be able to express the democratic will. Iraqi hasn't had a medium-chance for anything like the first since the Baath era, and hasn't had a chance for the second under Bush.

    Too bad.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/11/11/of-the-tribes-in-iraq.html

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