Friday, March 21, 2008

No Meaningful Progress in Iraq

I have tried to be encouraged by reports of decreased violence in Iraq. Despite any political advantage it gives Democrats, there is no joy for me in seeing us make no progress in a war we should not have even begun. Putting all of that aside, it still seems foolish to herald a tenuously bought-and-paid-for downturn in violence as an unquestionable sign of meaningful progress, and I haven't been able to surpass that strategic hurdle as easily as my right-wing peers have. Sometimes there is little pleasure in being right.

The success of the US "surge" strategy in Iraq may be under threat as Sunni militia employed by the US to fight al-Qaida are warning of a national strike because they are not being paid regularly.

Leading members of the 80,000-strong Sahwa, or awakening, councils have said they will stop fighting unless payment of their $10 a day (£5) wage is resumed. The fighters are accusing the US military of using them to clear al-Qaida militants from dangerous areas and then abandoning them.

A telephone survey by GuardianFilms for Channel 4 News reveals that out of 49 Sahwa councils four with more than 1,400 men have already quit, 38 are threatening to go on strike and two already have.

Improved security in Iraq in recent months has been attributed to a combination of the surge, the truce observed by Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, and the effectiveness and commitment of the councils, which are drawn from Sunni Arabs and probably the most significant factor, according to most analysts.

In his speech marking the fifth anniversary of the war George Bush highlighted the significance of what he called "the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden". Iraq, he said, "has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaida out."

But dozens of phone calls to Sahwa leaders reveal bitterness and anger. "We know the Americans are using us to do their dirty work and kill off the resistance for them and then we get nothing for it," said Abu Abdul-Aziz, the head of the council in Abu Ghraib, where 500 men have already quit.

"The Americans got what they wanted. We purged al-Qaida for them and now people are saying why should we have any more deaths for the Americans. They have given us nothing."
Ours is less of a strategy for success than a desperate grasping at straws as our options for progress dissolve. At some point, an honest assessment must lead to a responsible plan. It is unfortunate for the GOP and their electoral future that it will not happen while this President resides and their candidate offers more of the same. As Hunter says, the time has come for an agonizing reappraisal of the whole scene.
The American public has been presented with a set of false choices: a semi-permanent military occupation of Iraq versus a precipitous and destabilizing withdrawal. There is a deepening public desire for a new path forward and a cohesive military, diplomatic, and economic strategy that will end the war in Iraq while protecting American interests.

There are two strategic questions raised by our current dilemma:
1. How do we bring American military engagement in Iraq to a responsible end?

There is no military solution to the problems faced in Iraq: the real progress that can be made requires diplomatic, political, and economic means. We must stop counter-productive military operations by U.S. occupation forces and end our military presence in Iraq.

2. How do we prevent a repeat of the mistakes we've made?

The breakdown of checks and balances in our government led to bad decision-making which damaged America's national security. Ending this war and preventing future situations like it requires that we restore these Constitutional checks and balances and fix the ways in which our governmental, military, and civil institutions have failed us.
Discussions of Iraq in the media have focused almost entirely on military operations and issues, but any real solution will require us to look at a broader set of problems. Beyond redeploying our troops, we must place equal importance on applying the full arsenal of non-military tools at our disposal. The American public must also re-engage in the discussions and decision-making about how to proceed.

1 comment:

  1. Worry about the Shiites too. Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army attacked police patrols in southern Baghdad, and also battled Iraqi security forces in the southern city of Kut.

    Meanwhile clueless American politicians and the media talk about how "the 'surge' is working."