The Iraq War

We are four years into the Iraq War — five years into our response to 9/11.

We cannot possibly lose. Our enemies cannot possibly win.

Baghdad, the ancient capital of the Sunni Arabs — the old Caliphate. Remember the Empires it has resisted.

The Byzantines tried and failed to capture it. The last Byzantine Emperor fell in 1453. His conquerer, the Ottomans, fell in 1922.

The Mongols captured it, but failed to hold it. The city was Sunni Arab before the Mongols, and was Sunni Arab after them. The last Mongol Emperor fell in 1368. Their conquerers, the Ming, fell in 1644.


Osama bin Laden showed the world what the Sunni Arabs could accomplish, at the price of a few thousand American lives. He can destroy a few very nice buildings and alter the skyline of New York City. He can decrease national GDP by, say, .1% in a quarter.

George W. Bush showed the Sunni Arabs what he could accomplish, at the price of a few thousand American lives. Sunni Arab Baghdad is gone, forever. He gave it to their greatest enemies, the partisans of Ali.

The Byzantine Emperor, in all his glory, could not do that.
The Mongol Horde, in all their glory, could not do that.

But Bush did it, all while amusing himself by putting the Shia’s sponsor — Iran — on the defensive. Bush did it while proving the Shia themselves were powerless.

Imagine if Stalin had not stopped at Prussia, but had cleared Vienna of German domination, forever.

That is the scale of Bush’s work in Iraq.

The world will remember the Iraq War for a thousand years.

11 thoughts on “The Iraq War”

  1. Kat Missouri,

    The Shiites' gain has the weight of demographic reality: Iraq is 65% Shia and 15% Sunni Arab. There was a brief window, immediately after Saddam's defeat, where an experienced and capable Sunni Arab military, technocratic, and bureaucratic class could have kept the country. The Japanese Empire, after World War II, managed this trick.

    Fortunately (thank God), L. Paul Bremer dissolved the Sunni Arab dominated Army, and they responded with this insurgency that al Qaeda in Iraq got involved in. The Shia are now out in force, and the Sunni Arabs are overwhelmed.

    Good.

    Ry,

    Thanks, and thanks for the link over at Castle Argghhh!

    http://www.thedonovan.com/archives/2007/03/hi_fires_21_mar.html

  2. Hmm, fortunate enough for the Shiites perhaps, not so much for the strategy of the invading force… Unless you believe the Bush end game scenario entailed not a “democratic domino effect,” but a much more simple visage of Shia dominance. Do you?

    That aside, al Sadr hunkers down in Iran, the Mahdi Army stands at ease and the US forces shift their kinetic focus to the Sunni insurgency. Let me reach a bit: We ramp up pressure on Iran through UN sanctions and Russian nuclear “extortion” thereby pacifying, to some degree, the concern of Sunni states concerned with rising Shia power in both Iran and Iraq.

  3. Not to mention that we now have both the Arabs and Persians much more focused upon each other rather than upon us (particularly the Arabs).

    I think it is important that the Al Queda portion of the Sunni insurgency be more clearly defeated before we leave, though they are now effectively defeated. The Baathist can and may go on for years, they have less consequence to us outside of Iraq.

  4. Here, I've dredged up a quote from one of your visionary leaders:
    “I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today will last five days, five weeks or five months, but it certainly won't last any longer than that.”
    Donald Rumsfeld, Infinity Radio Call-in, Nov 14 2002

    Don't tell me…that was a clever trick to fool America's enemies.

    What an amazing piece of post-hoc rationalisation. Is this what the American conservative movement is reduced to? Brutally gloating over the mass evictions of innocent families from their homes by ethnic cleansing.

    Taking credit for torture, kidnap and murder meted out by the Badr and Madhi militias. Are these your allies, then? Is that the honourable cause your soldiers have been fighting for?

    And what dishonesty in saying that “Sunni Arabs” attacked you on 911, so you avenged yourselves on “Sunni Arabs”.

    None of the 911 attackers were Iraqis. So why didn't you serve out your vengeful example on Saudi Arabia, from whence 15 of the 19 came?

    Is it because you needed a fix of oil, and the Saudis are your pushers? Is it because your high government officials are in their pockets?

    You attacked the wrong country. You know it. You refuse to admit it. After four years, your everchanging rationalisations have gotten you so tied up in knots you can't see up from down.

    Only a beaten, discredited movement in the last stages of dissolution could generate this kind of claptrap.

  5. Here are some blogs remarkably similar to yours from other conservatives who boasted of their prowess in trashing Mesopotamia.

    (I am) Shalmaneser, King of multitudes of men,
    prince (and) hero of Assur, the strong King,
    King of all the four zones of the Sun (and) of multitudes of men,
    the marcher over the whole world;
    Son of Assur-natsir-pal, the supreme hero, who his heroism over the gods
    has made good and has caused all the world to kiss his feet;
    the noble offspring of Tiglath-Adar
    who has laid his yoke upon all lands hostile to him,
    and has swept (them) like a whirlwind.
    At the beginning of my reign, when on the throne
    of royalty mightily I had seated myself, the chariots
    of my host I collected.
    Into the lowlands of the country of 'Sime'si I descended. The city of Aridu, the strong city of Ninni, I took.
    In my first year the Euphrates in its flood I crossed.
    To the sea of the setting sun
    I went. My weapons on the sea I rested.
    Victims for my gods I took.
    … Yan'su King of the Zimri from the face
    of my mighty weapons fled and to save his life
    ascended (the mountains). The cities of 'Sikhisatakh, Bit-Tamul, Bit-Sacci
    and Bit-Sedi, his strong cities, I captured. His fighting men I slew.
    His spoil I carried away. The cities I threw down, dug up, and with fire burned.
    The rest of them to the mountains ascended. The peaks of the mountains
    I attacked, I captured. Their fighting men I slew. Their spoil and their goods
    I caused to be brought down. From the country of Zimru I departed.
    The tribute of 27 Kings of the country of Par'sua I received.
    …Aramu the Urartian, being struck with fear by the terror of my mighty army…
    withdrew from his city and went up into the mountains of Adduri. Then I went up after him and fought a mighty battle in the mountains.
    With my army I overthrew 3,400 warriors; like Adad I brought a great rain-cloud down upon them;
    with the blood of the enemy I dyed the mountain as if it had been wool, and I captured their camp.
    Then Aramu, to save his life, fled to an inaccessible mountain.
    In my mighty strength I trampled on his land like a wild bull, and his cities I reduced to ruins and consumed with fire.
    Shalmaneser III of Assyria

  6. The commander-in-chief of the king of Elam, together with his nobles…I cut their throats like sheep….My prancing steeds, trained to harness, plunged into their welling blood as into a river; the wheels of my battle chariots were bespattered with blood and filth. I filled the plain with the corpses of their warriors.

    …As to the sheikhs of the Chaldeans, panic from my onslaught overwhelmed them like a demon. They abandoned their tents and fled for their lives, crushing the corpses of their troops as they went…(In their terror) they passed scalding urine and voided their excrement in their chariots…

    I drew nigh to Ekron and I slew the governors and princes that had transgressed, and I hung upon poles, round about the city, their dead bodies. The people of the city who had done wickedly and had committed offences, I counted as spoil, but those who had not done these things and who were not taken in inquity, I pardoned. I brought their king Padi forth and I stablished him upon the throne of dominion over them, and I laid tribute upon him.
    Sennacherib, King of Assyria, 691 B.

  7. You have to admit these are guys after your own heart.

    This new America of yours could model itself on the Mongols as well as the Assyrians.

    Genghis Khan never sacked Baghdad, but his grandson Hulagu did. Old Genghis said:
    “Happiness lies in conquering your enemies, in driving them in front of you, in taking their property, in savouring their despair, in raping their wives and daughters.”

    Of course they weren't really Genghis's enemies, were they? More his victims. But then you're willing to overlook that difference in a pinch, aren't you, Dan?

  8. By the way, earlier this month, Col Kilcullen, Petraeus' counterinsurgency advisor, when asked for metrics of progress in the Security Plan, said that one good sign was that 600 to 1000 displaced Sunni families had returned to Baghdad.

    The US troops in Baghdad say that one of their main goals is to stop ethnic cleansing in the city. Part of the security plan involves evicting squatters, who are almost always Shia in abandoned Sunni homes.

    So all you patriotic conservatives are actively cheering the failure of your soldiers' mission.

  9. Jay,

    We are not going to achieve are maximal objectives (a free, liberal, democratic, and stable middle east), just as we were unable to achieve our maximal objectives in World War II (a disarmed Germany and a revolutionized Japan), we were unable to achieve our maximal objectives in Korea (one free peninsula), we were unable to achieve our maximal objectives in Vietnam (a stable Saigon government), etc.

    Yet in six weeks we were able to smash our military opponents, in the the four years since then (but due almost entirely to L. Paul Bremer) we have permanently altered the correlation of forces in that country away from the blights of our time — the Sunni Arab philosophies of national-secularism and totalitarian Islam. [1]

    Russia is desperate for cash, and is willing to shake down clients (for example, Belarus and Iran [2]) to get it. Moscow cannot stem a violentm, concentrated insurgency inside her own borders.

    ElamBend,

    The situation in Iraq gradually slides to the situation in Afghanistan — a typical tribal revolt interlaced with a dangerous enemy. Something to be concerned about, definitely, but not be-all-end-all either.

    OD,

    Thanks for your excellent comments.

    Rumsfeld's contribution to the administration was as a top-notch advocate for Big War style revolutions in military affairs. Unfortunately, I think, he was overruled by Bush in matters on Iraq, so we are still there. Nonetheless, whether we would have left in October 2003 or not, the essential facts are still what they would be.

    The defeat of our enemies, and the creation of an Iraq run by Iraqis, are both honorable goals.

    Regarding Saudi Arabia and 9/11, I recall what Tom Friedman said when asked why we didn't attack Saudi Arabia instead. “That would have been fine.” Indeed, Shia control over eastern Arabia's oil fields would have had a greater impact. But Saddam's history of obstinace in the 1990s compounded the calculations, obviously.

    And now he sleeps with Milosevic, that other thorn in our side.

    There are serious critiques of US oil policy to be made — indeed, I have made them [3] — but “Is it because your high government officials are in their pockets?” is perhaps the emptiest of these.

    “You attacked the wrong country. “

    Why? On what grounds?

    “Only a beaten, discredited movement in the last stages of dissolution could generate this kind of claptrap.”

    I wish I had a movement to call my own. 🙂

    PS: They share similar styles, but I prefer Ozymandias [4]over Shalmaneser.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/08/20/a-new-middle-east-part-i-our-vanquished-enemies.html
    [2] http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/03/22/005.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/04/01/a_modest_geogreen_gas_tax_proposal_5_gal_gas.html
    [4] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/06/12/shrink-the-gap-support-the-gas-tax.html

  10. PS:

    “By the way, earlier this month, Col Kilcullen, Petraeus' counterinsurgency advisor, when asked for metrics of progress in the Security Plan, said that one good sign was that 600 to 1000 displaced Sunni families had returned to Baghdad.

    The US troops in Baghdad say that one of their main goals is to stop ethnic cleansing in the city. Part of the security plan involves evicting squatters, who are almost always Shia in abandoned Sunni homes.”

    The transformation of the Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad, for example, from a heroic den of antiamericanism to a collection of helpless victims has been interesting to watch. It seem that a population that supports an insurgency (insurgencies cannot exist without widespread support) is heroic when it helps kill innocents and mains our soldiers, but of course as pure as white snow when the ability to murder is taken away.

    This final humiliation — forcing those who fight us to beg us for protection — is an interesting way to spend lives. Not one I woudl advocate, but perhaps it will be counted as wise in time.

  11. Well, Dan, I looked at your links and it's quite your own little Weekly Standard you've got here. I can't fault the consistency of your logic, particularly given that you've openly expressed your preference for theocratic Muslim states with Sharia law, over secular Arab states.

    But something tells me that many of your readers, American Republicans, haven't really noticed that you are advocating (a) the failure of the Baghdad security plan, and (b) the spread of Islamist rule. You know how they tend to listen to the slogans and ignore the small print. All emotion, no geography.

    I sincerely doubt that Gen Petraeus' security plan will fail so catastrophically that the Sunnis are swept completely from Baghdad. More likely is a slow, messy bleed.

    Where the chips will fall eventually no-one can say. The Americans have consistently underestimated the Sunnis. Indeed, at the outset of the surge the Americans were worrying about the Mahdi Army, but it's the Sunni insurgency that has gone into overdrive.

    Sunnis were left to fend for themselves as a minority in Iraq for hundreds of years, and it never stopped them dominating the country before.

    Rwanda’s Tutsis were outnumbered two-to-one by Hutus, but still traditionally dominated the army and government. Then the massacre left them outnumbered four-to-one. Who runs Rwanda today? The Tutsis.

    The Shia may end up inheriting the Sunnis' Kurdish problem. Their desire for independence is a problem postponed but not resolved.

    The break-up of Iraq remains entirely likely. No-one is kicking the Sunnis out of western Iraq. Anbar may even end up part of Syria.

    One thing is certain: none of this was intended by Bush. Nor desired, nor foreseen. Not by him, or Rumsfeld, or Cheney, or Wolfowitz, or any of them. Apart from Cheney they've essentially admitted as much.

    It's telling that the man you hail as a new Alexander the Great himself went from boasting of having “prevailed” to “absolutely, we're winning” to “we're not winning, we're not losing”, then on to “I'm not satisfied”, and most recently, “prevailing in Iraq is not going to be easy” coupled with a not-very-reassuring “it can be won…”.

    If you want to characterise Iraq as a victory you'd better start by telling George Bush, because his body language cries out that he hates this war, that he's lost, that it's become a millstone. Tell the generals, who talk of Iraq in dark, gloomy, subdued undertones.

    And of course, Dan, keep telling yourself.

  12. Many Sunnis have already left Iraq, of course. Indeed, nearly ten percent of the population of Iraq has fled the country.

    Imagine if you do succeed in kicking all the Sunnis out. They’ll be just like the Palestinians, only meaner and much more efficient. And of course they’ll hate America as their primary enemy rather than Israel. That seems a smart move in the War on Terror.

    But I doubt it will come to that. As I said, American conservatives have been wrong about an astonishing number of things in recent years, but they’re rarely wronger than when underestimating Sunni stubbornness. Let’s be honest, when it comes to resolve, the Iraqi Sunni population seems to have considerably more gas left in the tank than the population of Peoria, Illinois.

    The Sunni insurgency is actually STILL getting bigger. In fact the Surge has seen the Sunni death rate fall while the Shia death rate climbs.

    The US Army notes that sectarian death squad killings are down, but fails to mention that insurgent bombs are sharply up. If you check this month's civilian casualty figures so far and extrapolate them, you'll find that Iraq is currently on course for exactly the same toll in March as in February. But far more of them have been killed by insurgents, while fewer were killed by militia and police death squads.

    Iraqi military and police KIA numbered 91 in January and 150 in February. They are at 124 for the first 18 days of March – on course for 213 this month, a 40 percent jump on February’s figure and a 120 percent jump on January’s.

    US military fatalities were 83 in January, 80 in February, and 69 in the first 18 days of this month (plus usually a few temporarily withheld announcements). 69 puts them on course for 118 this month — almost a 50 percent increase in US casualties over the previous two months’ figures.

    The post-surge MNF intelligence slides have not yet been leaked, but when they are I’m quite certain you will see that IED attacks have risen remorselessly throughout this period. I have a feeling that the Sunnis will make a better fist than you think of protecting their interests in Iraq once the US has gone.

    Just think, about three IED detonations target Americans for every one that targets Iraqi forces. So when the Americans leave, if the Iraqis take over their posts, the number of IED attacks they sustain will quadruple. I’m not sure the NIA and IPs are up to that kind of knocking about, especially given their shocking lack of armour.

  13. And the US is going to leave. And the insurgents will still be in the field. By all the definitions I know, the guy who leaves while his opponent is still in the field bearing arms might have a hard job declaring himself the winner and convincing the world of it.

    Why are the Americans going to leave? Because one thing George Bush DOES have in common with Alexander is that your warrior-king, like the Macedonian, also failed to keep his own subjects onside.

    The American people are pretty clear on how successful the Iraq war has been. And that’s one respect in which the Iraq war has been decisive, and will indeed be long remembered.

    It’s deliciously ironic, given your callous attitude to the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad, to think that the real outcome of this war is going to be an ethnic cleansing of conservatives from Washington.

  14. Dan,

    I've been following your blog for well over a year now. You have some of the most intriguing ideas about the Middle East that I've seen in the blogosphere on either side of the aisle (even though I tend to reach the opposite conclusions then you do).

    With that said, you seem to very clearly be advocating siding with the Shia against the Sunni in Iraq. Obviously, the Shia have the demographics on their side and we fought to topple the Sunni Arab dictatorship of Saddam. If Iraq existed in a vacuum, I would whole-heartedly agree with your views.

    And yet, Iraq doesn't exist in a vacuum, it's surrounded by increasingly hostile Sunni countries. I'm sure you know that 80% of the Muslims world wide are Sunni. So, by siding with the Shia, you risk alienating the vast majority of the Muslims. I can't think of a bigger propaganda coup for Osama. The Zionist-Crusaders teaming up with the Shia in order to exterminate the Sunni. And the thing is, he'd be 100% correct. How could we advocate intervening in the Balkans and Darfur in order to stop a ethnic cleansing genocide, while at the same time either tacitly or overtly supporting one against the Sunnis?

    If that wasn't bad enough, you have the increasing tensions between the US and Iran. I don't think that there's anyway that the two countries can ever work together because there is just too much bad blood and conflicting interests. Tom Barnett likes to talk about a grand bargain with Iran, but I just don't see it happening. Iran will go nuclear in a couple years, it will then give it's client organizations (the Mahdi Army in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon) free reign to spread Shia influence throughout the region (especially the Eastern parts of Saudi Arabia). This is something completely unseen since the original Caliphs in the 7th Century.

    That's not something we should cheer on.

  15. Sorry Dan. Owen(OD) is a sometime commentor at Castle Argghhh! who gets a jones for attacking conservatives(which to be honest, I'm not sure you are. I'm really rather unsure of anything about you other than your love of Barnettian thinking and Lady of Tdaxp). John's got him, somehow, to behave over there; but that doesn't stop Owen from misbehaving here apparently.

    Owen is typically a good chap. Former RN. Current journalist. Devout internationalist.

    But if you're going to play that way Owen why don't you go on over to LGF? There's a ton of people there who would love to play, unlike here.

  16. Ry,

    No need to apologize for OD. His tone is off for this blog — and his social-identity attacks on “conservatives” is amusing — but he does raise some interesting points. And he hasn't made an obscene reference to a world almanac [1], yet, so he can't be all bad! 🙂

    LJ,

    I've enjoyed your writing, both comments and blogposts, as well. Thank you for the kind words.

    On propaganda, I can't think of any more effective propoganda for the Japanese Empire than President Roosevelt's 1941 declaration of war. But perhaps more important, the world has now seen 62 years of propoganda-of-the-deed by the Sunni Arab National Secularists. It is their rule, and their policies, which create the toxic combination of an educated people and a zerosum economy — a world of those whose life will not improve, and they know it.

    It is because of Saddam Hussein that we had Abu Zarqawi: not because Saddam and Zarqawi shared dreams of a future, but because it is Saddam's policies that made Zarqawi's calls popular.

    It is because of Hosni Mubarak that we have Ayman Zawahari: not because Mubarak and Zawahari share dreams of a future, but because it is Mubarak's policies that made Zarqawi's calls popular.

    The Sunni Arab National Secularists have been adept at directing the negative feedback they create to us: to anti-Americanism, to anti-Occidentalism. It is their bad regimes that cause this terror, these feelings of anger and rages, this real pain and this real humiliation.

    It is important to demonstrate one thing:

    // The Arab regimes, as they have been from roughly 1945 to now, do not work. The fall of Baghdad was an important part of this. Every “humiliation” is an important part of this. Humiliation is an evolved reflex that tells us our side is very weak and what one has been doing does not work. It is important, terribly important, for the Sunni Arabs to feel humiliated. It is important, terribly important, for the Sunni Arabs to know their regimes do not work. //

    The only progressive force in the region for the Sunni Arabs is the Muslim Brothers [2]. And if this abduction of Baghdad improves their power, then God be praised!

    Iraq is not surrounded by hostile Sunni Arab countries. It's strongest neighbor, Iran, is Shia. It's second strongest neighbor, Turkey, is not Arab. It's third strongest neighbor, the Kurds, are like the Iranians aryans and like the Turks oriented away from the Arab swamp. Iraq has one Arab state ruled by Shia, Syria, and three Sunni Arab neighbors that are militarily powerless (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait).

    Our poor relations with Iran are disturbing, and I wish they were not so. Nonetheless, The Islamic Republic has a history of collaboration with us and Israel, from Afghanistan (1980s) to Iran-Contra to the Osirak Reactor Strike to Afghanistan (2000s) to the Coalition Provisional Authority. A friendly Iran would be better than what we have now, but Iran is a country we can — and do — do business with.

    Regarding the Shia Revival, I think the Fatimid dynasty (910-1171), where the Caliphate was held by Shia, may be the most recent precedent for what we may see.

    OD,

    Thank you for your comments. They deserve — and will get — an answer. I will try to respond later today.

    [1] http://www.cominganarchy.com/archives/2007/03/17/chinas-ambitions/#comment-318184
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/08/24/a-new-middle-east-part-iv-islam-is-the-answer.html

  17. If you had told me on 9-12-01 that our master-plan for revenge was to devise a devious scheme where Muslim on Muslim violence would keep our Islamist enemies too pinned downed “over there” to even contemplate another attack on our soil, and that hundreds of thousands would die divided and conquered….. I would have marveled at its brilliance.

    Our ridiculous, self-imposed, rules of engagement would never have allowed us to directly blow up a Mosque or execute an Islamic Cleric in front of his fellow America hating adherents, much less break out the power drills during interogations…..but now, by tapping into the unlimited supply of sectarian / tribal hatred our Islamic enemies harbor we get to enjoy the non-Geneva compliant Muslim on Muslim atrocities on a daily basis, while pointing the finger of righteous indignation at both sides, while watching the slaughter from our observation posts on the moral high ground…..while fighting back a grin when the cameras are rolling.

    …..but a thousand years is a long time Dan. What makes you think that once we do “redeploy” out of theater that nature wont equalize itself, and the more brutal Sunnis wont reclaim Baghdad, one well placed atrocity at a time.

    And thats an awful long time to keep the nuclear flame out of the hands of those who would use it for sectarian gain and to court Allah's favor. I think in a thousand years all the history books will note is that the region went from an petroleum based economy to a glass mining one.

  18. “If you had told me on 9-12-01 that our master-plan for revenge was to devise a devious scheme where Muslim on Muslim violence would keep our Islamist enemies too pinned downed “over there” to even contemplate another attack on our soil, and that hundreds of thousands would die divided and conquered….. I would have marveled at its brilliance.”

    I would hope instead that we could re-boot the Arab cultures, and begin to reverse the nightmare of 1945. But more importantly:

    “Our ridiculous, self-imposed, rules of engagement would never have allowed us to directly blow up a Mosque or execute an Islamic Cleric in front of his fellow America hating adherents, much less break out the power drills during interogations…..but now, by tapping into the unlimited supply of sectarian / tribal hatred our Islamic enemies harbor we get to enjoy the non-Geneva compliant Muslim on Muslim atrocities on a daily basis, while pointing the finger of righteous indignation at both sides, while watching the slaughter from our observation posts on the moral high ground…..while fighting back a grin when the cameras are rolling.”

    EXACTLY.

    There is a double-standard on foreign forces v. domestic forces. This double-standard reveals itself time and time again. We are cut down in the world for a hundredth — a thousandth — of what everyone politely ignores as long as “those people” do it to themselves.

    Loyalty militias are a vital part of the military-industrial complex we'll need for this sort of “nation building” excersize. They are vital.

    Once again: BRILLIANT.

    We have the biggest gun on the planet. But Iraq is a knife fight. [1]

    “…..but a thousand years is a long time Dan. What makes you think that once we do “redeploy” out of theater that nature wont equalize itself, and the more brutal Sunnis wont reclaim Baghdad, one well placed atrocity at a time.”

    While the Sunni Arabs may have been a majority of the population when the Turks rolled in during the 16th century, since then the Sunni Arabs have relied on Imperial benefactors — be they Turks or Brits — to keep them in power. The Sunni Arabs only had to rely on themselves to rule Iraq from 1958 (the overthrow of the Hashemite Monarchy, the rise of Abdul Karim Qassim, and the end of the Baghdad Pact) to 2003. The brutality of that period is a function of the desperate position of the Sunni Arabs on their own.

    Absent an outside intervention that no could only come from us (thank God Bremer dissolved the Army and made this essentially impossible), they cannot relcaim their throne.

    OD,

    “I sincerely doubt that Gen Petraeus' security plan will fail so catastrophically that the Sunnis are swept completely from Baghdad. More likely is a slow, messy bleed.”

    No need for a complete sweep. The Jews weren't swept completely from Thesealonika or Baghdad until the 20th century. But before those events they didn't rule those cities, either.

    “Indeed, at the outset of the surge the Americans were worrying about the Mahdi Army, but it's the Sunni insurgency that has gone into overdrive.”

    This is a theme, so I want to address it here. An obvious, short term consequence of the surge is an increase in anti-Shia terrorism, as the Americans force a temporary stand-down of Shia neighborhood watches. Whether or not this changes the prestiage of the Mahdi Army is an open question. That it provides a fresh round of outrages to drive anti-Sunni-Arab campaigns in the city, once the surge lessens, goes without saying.

    “Sunnis were left to fend for themselves as a minority in Iraq for hundreds of years, and it never stopped them dominating the country before.”

    No, they weren't. The Sunni Arabs ran what is now Iraq under Ottoman or British sponsorship from the 16th century to 1958. They feded “for themselves as a minority in Iraq” for under five decades.

    “Rwanda’s Tutsis were outnumbered two-to-one by Hutus, but still traditionally dominated the army and government. Then the massacre left them outnumbered four-to-one. Who runs Rwanda today? The Tutsis.”

    An outside intervention might turn the tide — but from where would it come?

    “The Shia may end up inheriting the Sunnis' Kurdish problem. Their desire for independence is a problem postponed but not resolved.”

    Doubtful, as geographic reality seperates the Kurds and Shia, but gives both long frontiers with the Sunnis.

    “If you want to characterize Iraq as a victory you'd better start by telling George Bush, because his body language cries out that he hates this war, that he's lost, that it's become a millstone. Tell the generals, who talk of Iraq in dark, gloomy, subdued undertones.”

    Or the bloggers, who want to leave Iraq now? [2]

    “Imagine if you do succeed in kicking all the Sunnis out. They’ll be just like the Palestinians, only meaner and much more efficient.”

    It does seem like both are petite bourgeoisie diasporas caused after a failed, antioccidental war. Not sure what Iraqis would be meaner or more efficient than Palestinians, though.

    “the Iraqi Sunni population seems to have considerably more gas left in the tank than the population of Peoria, Illinois.”

    Yes, clearly. Unfortunately for them, they do not neighbor the population of Peoria Illinois — they neighbor the populations of Sadr City and Kirkuk.

    “I have a feeling that the Sunnis will make a better fist than you think of protecting their interests in Iraq once the US has gone.”

    Which, I assume, of why their fighting ability has seen them push the Shia and Kurds out of the major disputed areas???

    (Obviously not, which is why I ask)

    “if the Iraqis take over their posts, the number of IED attacks they sustain will quadruple”

    You expect Iraq to fight a conventional civil war against the Sunni Arabs?

    Or do you think the cleared areas have been cleared by open patrols, formal notices, etc?

    “And the insurgents will still be in the field. By all the definitions I know, the guy who leaves while his opponent is still in the field bearing arms might have a hard job declaring himself the winner and convincing the world of it.”

    Of course America will not finally hold the ground she now does. America's task, ultimately and only, can be to change the correlation of forces inside Iraq. That task was largely completed in 2003. Since then Bush, in a foolish policy, has tried to prevent or at least slow down largescale revenge attacks on the Sunni Arab population. But that will end. Hopefulyl sooner rather than later.

    “Why are the Americans going to leave? Because one thing George Bush DOES have in common with Alexander is that your warrior-king, like the Macedonian, also failed to keep his own subjects onside.”

    I would think widespread and historical American opposition to direct nationbuilding is a better reason than a stretched historical analogy.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/01/26/gun-fights-and-knife-fights.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/08/11/leave-iraq-now.html

  19. Dan,

    Thanks for an excellent reply. It really helped clarify where you're coming from.

    I agree completely with your assessment that Sunni National-Secularism has provided a catalyst for al Qaeda (and it's ilk), it was one of several reasons why I supported the war. But I view radical Islamism as having two distinct strains, both its Sunni variant and its Shia variant. After all, until 9/11, Hezbollah (an arm of the Iranian government) killed far more Americans than al Qaeda, the Marine Barracks Bombing, the assassination of CIA Station Chief William Buckley, the sponsorship of Imad Mugniyah (one of the most deadly and accomplished terrorists around, who actually met with Ahmedinejad last year), etc.

    It seems that this is an enemy of my enemy type of situation. Opposing the Sunni Islamists means you need to support the Shia Islamists. That may very well work for a while, until the Shia then decide to bite the hand that feeds them. And once Iran gets a nuke, our military leverage over them will be virtually nil. They'd be able to act with impunity. I don't know if that's a scenario that any American president from either party could live with.

  20. LJ,

    We see throughout the Arab world what happens to countries that fall to the Sunni Arab national secularists.

    We see — in Saudi Arabia and Taliban Afghanistan — what happens to countries that fall to the Wahabis.

    But we also see, in Palestine, what happens to governments run by Muslim Brotherhood. There we see a civil war (against, no surprise, the always-spoiler national secularists of the Fatah/PLO)… but compared to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, where are the horrors? Where are the Hamas gunmen keeping women inside burning buildings, or the beheadings in soccer stadiums? We don't see that. Hamas, the Palestinian Branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, brings what it promises: an illiberal democracy. I would not want that for my country. But it is much, much better than most other Arab governments.

    And in Iran we see what a Shia Islamic Republic brings: massive secularism (about 5% weekly prayers attendence) and a government with all the legitimacy of the 1970s Soviet Union, and all the democracy of Britain at the death of Victoria.

    The Muslim Brothers and the Ayatollahs are indeed the worst choice for the Muslim Middle East — except for all the others.

    Now, how we treat Iran as a geostrategic rival is a real question that needs serious study. But Iran as a regional power is far from the worst thing that could happen: in the Arab world it faces off against the bankrupt Sunni Arab regimes, in the Caucuses she routinely sides with “Christians” (Armenians and Russians against Azerbaijanis and Chechens, for example) when it suites them, while in Central Asia it is a natural competitor against Russia for the future of Turkmenistan. Iran is a country that should be dealt with in the normal way we deal with such countries: carefully, seriously, but with an assurance we are both states that want the best for ourselves in materialistic terms.

  21. Again, Dan, I can't fault you on the internal logical consistency of your argument, especially since you've said elsewhere that you're a frank advocate of Shia power and want to see a stronger Iran.

    These developments are indeed good from the point of view of the Tehran government. But I still fail to see how you can paint this as a victory for America.

    You suggest that imposing a grim fate on Iraq's Sunnis is just revenge, because Sunnis attacked New York on 911.

    But your idea is to reward Shia. Hang on, though, wasn't it Shia who blew up the Marine barracks? Who took all those US hostages in Beirut and Tehran?

    The current balance of forces leaves Moqtada al-Sadr as Iraq's kingmaker. Sadr is virulently anti-American.

    Maliki himself is not a Sadrist but a member of Dawa, like Jafaari before him.

    Dawa was founded in Iran by the Revolutionary Ayatollahs as a Shiite terrorist organisation. Dawa bombed the US embassy in Kuwait in 1983. Seventeen Dawa members were imprisoned for that attack. Over the next ten years, practically every American kidnapped in Beirut, including murdered CIA station chief William Buckley, had kidnappers who demanded the release of the al-Dawa 17. A Kuwait airlines flight was hijacked in 84. The terrorists demanded the release of the Dawa 17. They killed two USAID officials they found on board.

    Next year terrorists demanding the Dawa 17s release killed a USN diver, Robert Dean Stethem, on a hijacked TWA flight. Sheik Fadlallah, who blew up the Beirut Marine barracks, was not only a member of Hezbollah but was also one of the two official spiritual leaders of Dawa.

    I fail to see how elevating a member of an anti-American terrorist organisation to the Prime Ministership of Iraq is advancing America's interests.

    I doubt if the parents of fallen American soldiers would be thrilled to hear that the organisation their son died to keep in power had a track record of murdering Americans in terrorist outrages.

    Practically all of the people in power in Iraq today were groomed in Tehran, by Ayatollah Khomeini, for the express purpose of taking over Iraq. How is fulfilling Khomeini's plan after his death a victory for America?

    Even if it suits your ends, it most certainly doesn't suit George Bush's, because he DOESN'T like to see enhanced Iranian power.

    That's what's most fantastical about your argument. The consequences of the Iraq war are practically opposite to what he intended. You boast of the exodus from Iraq as evidence of American power. Yet Bush meant to set Iraq up as a beacon of light, an attractive example to follow, an oasis of liberty…not a violent hellhole that millions have fled.

  22. Oops I said Dawa was founded by the Revolutionary Ayatollahs, but of course it's older than that. It merely took shelter under their wing.

  23. Ninety-eight percent of Iraqi Sunnis have negative perceptions of the US, but so do 80% of Shia. Just over half of all Iraqis now support attacks on Coalition troops. Do the maths: that means just over half of Shia do.

    Even if Shia government is solidified, the US will still be unable to stay in Iraq indefinitely, because neither the American nor the Iraqi public will stand for it. Yet staying permanently was part of the plan.

    As Wolfowitz said, a “huge but underappreciated” reason for the invasion was to allow US troops to base themselves in Iraq instead of Saudi Arabia. “Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to a more peaceful Middle East,” he said.

    Just one of hundreds of pre-war quotes that show what the architects of this war actually wanted, and how very different that was to what they got.

    Maybe you can convince yourself that Iraq is a victory, Dan, but that won't do you much good if nobody else sees it that way. Iraq is seen as a defeat for America by Arabs, by Americans, and by the rest of the world. Foreign capitals have downgraded, not upgraded, their estimates of US military strength. Within America, there will be at least a decade of extreme caution about foreign intervention of any kind. At least a decade, more likely two.

  24. “…why their fighting ability has seen them push the Shia and Kurds out of the major disputed areas???” (sarcastically)

    The Sunni HAVE been pushing Shia out in Baquba, Samarra, and across Diyala, which is halfway to becoming another Anbar. They've created a Sunni belt around Baghdad, even in areas that were once Shia or mixed.

    In Mosul and Kirkuk they've held on far more tenaciously than the Kurds expected. If Kurdish ethnic cleansing in Kirkuk has been so successful, why are the Kurds trying to weasel out of the long-planned Kirkuk referendum? Because they don't think they've got 50% of the city's votes yet.

    You suggest that a Shia Iraqi government will get on fine with the Kurds since Shia and Kurd rarely abut geographically. But the Kurds have hundreds of undeveloped oil wells, and they want to secede with them. Baghdad is not just going to let that happen without a fight.

    “You expect Iraq to fight a conventional civil war against the Sunni Arabs?”
    I expect the Iraqi army and police to patrol, if the government is to have any hope of being taken seriously.

  25. “I fail to see how elevating a member of an anti-American terrorist organisation to the Prime Ministership of Iraq is advancing America's interests”

    This is a line of reasoning that makes co-optation, the prunning of groups from one another, impossible to do, and thereby defeating an insurgency impossible. It is, imo, an argument that says attrition is the only way. If you're going to use diplomacy at all, and many say it must, then you have to shake hands with bastards from time to time.

    Yeah, it'll anger family of the fallen. Make them feel betrayed. It happens and while regretable it is unaviodable.

    Otherwise we'd have had to let Patton march his divisions East over the feelings of betrayal by those who lost family figthing to save Europe and those who were angry we shook hands with one of the biggest jerks of history(Stalin).

    What in particular says we can't in this case when the tactic in general is useful, and was worked real hard in one of the anti-insurgency success stories of the 20th century, Malaya, by the Brits?

    “You suggest that a Shia Iraqi government will get on fine with the Kurds since Shia and Kurd rarely abut geographically. But the Kurds have hundreds of undeveloped oil wells, and they want to secede with them. Baghdad is not just going to let that happen without a fight.”

    This is true. But the question is one of whether with US prompting/backroom strong arming the fight is done with arms or in the court room. The Shia we seem to have leverage on. That matters when you're talking long term as opposed to six months out.

    The SA thing. Owen, don't vertical think over much here. Why would someone say that? Could it be that people like OBL were upset that US/non-Moslem forces were in the Holy Land of Mecca? (So you assume that removing the offending Infidel Forces, but still needing the ability to interject you find another place for basing, would give them a reason to be less pissed and that makes you evil?)

  26. OD,

    ry has answered many of your specific points very well, and I wrote a post addresses the cause of the war [1]. To the rest of your thoughts:

    “The current balance of forces leaves Moqtada al-Sadr as Iraq's kingmaker. Sadr is virulently anti-American. “

    Hard to see how this is true. More likely is that you have two major forces — the United States and Iran — who can veto any attempted government, and a variety of internal factions (SCIRI and Dawa most prominent among them) who would nominate a leader.

    “Even if it suits your ends, it most certainly doesn't suit George Bush's, because he DOESN'T like to see enhanced Iranian power.”

    Indeed, and that's probably why since 2004 George Bush has been going a different direction in the middle east than I would prefer. I see the fantastic work he did, and want to say “Yes, more!” He sees what he has done, and now sees “Let's make it work better.” I am quite happy with a stronger Iran, as Iran is a better influence in the region than most of its neighbors. Bush sees a geostrategic competition with Iran, and tries to minimize Iran's practical, near-term gains.

    This disagreement is more than trivial — it costs plenty of treasure and lives. But it is a disagreement on the details of his 2003 accomplishment, not a disagreement that can overturn what he has done.

    “not a violent hellhole that millions have fled.”

    About 1.5 million Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, have left Iraq in the past three years [2]. By comparison, around a million white South Africans have left since that countries democratization. I would complain about the violence in that country against whites, but RSA Security Minister Charles Nqakula has asked us not to whinge about that [3].

    The Sunni Arab insurgency sped up and worsened part of democratization that almost certainly would have happened (as a slower version of it is happening in “successful” South Africa). Thus, is your argument against democratization as such?

    “Even if Shia government is solidified, the US will still be unable to stay in Iraq indefinitely, because neither the American nor the Iraqi public will stand for it. Yet staying permanently was part of the plan. “

    Without getting into the wisdom and practicality of basing in Iraq, which I just don't know about, it seems that you confuse the occupation of Iraqi cities (which is a high-friction environment) with bases in the desert (which is low-friction).

    “Iraq is seen as a defeat for America by Arabs, by Americans, and by the rest of the world. Foreign capitals have downgraded, not upgraded, their estimates of US military strength.”

    Go back to 2003, and read Foreign Policy, or any other publication that looked at the Iraq situation. The uniform conclusion was that American power

    (a) woudl quickly defeat the military
    (b) would have tremendous difficulty in an occupation

    This is exactly what has happened. Perception-wise, Bush has confirmed the best estimates of American power: we have the ability to destroy, but limited ability to create. This is a fact [4] we should embrace [5].

    “I expect the Iraqi army and police to patrol, if the government is to have any hope of being taken seriously.”

    Why would a Shia army patrol a Sunni neighborhood either during or after a tribal war?

    ry,

    A fantastic comment!

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/03/22/the-iraq-war-is-about-feedback-more-than-revenge-or-justice.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/11/07/the-end-of-empire.html
    [3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5412892.stm
    [4] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/12/21/embracing-defeat-part-iii-the-born-gimp.html
    [5] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/12/23/embracing-defeat-part-iv-embracing-victory.html

  27. “But something tells me that many of your readers, American Republicans. . .”

    Huh? I thought I was a registered Democrat? Why didn't someone tell me I was standing in the wrong lines to vote?!

    Seriously, though, you might accomplish a bit more with less name-calling. I don't agree with all of Tdaxp's opinions either, but he's better at arguing them than a lot of us who thought invading Iraq was a bad idea. And I notice he hasn't returned the namecalling to either of us. . .

  28. Well, we'll agree to differ for now, and perhaps take up the cudgels again on another page. No-one could call you a dittohead, Dan, I'll give you that. Your argument is original, whatever else it may be.

    Regarding America's involvement in all this, though, I still think your great social experiment is going to run out of research funding.

  29. Michael,

    Thank you for your voice of calm.

    OD,

    “I still think your great social experiment is going to run out of research funding.”

    Fortunately, the US is not in a position to veto its achievements in 2003. Saying the 2003 achievements may run out of “research funding” is like saying the internet may run afoul of DARPA budget priorities.

    I've enjoyed this conversation. Would you mind taking a look at and commenting on some of the earlier Iraq posts on this blog? (Just click on “Iraq” where it says “Posted by Dan tdaxp in Iraq”) I think you will enjoy them, and I would value your thoughts.

  30. Calm? Who's being calm? I just got done upgrading my Norton software, I was feeling sarcastic, and name-calling on political threads drives me up a wall:P

    Thank you for the compliment, though.

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