Monday, April 18, 2005

Iraq News

Patrick Cockburn is, according to Iraq expert Juan Cole, probably the best English-language Iraq reporter going right now. This report, which you will not see in any large American paper, explains why U.S. casualties are down since the election of the Iraqi parliament in January.

What's crazy about this moment in the history of the Iraq war is that if the after-the-fact justifications for the war (starting a revolution of democracy in Asia Minor) had any validity, at this precise instant the U.S. is in an incredibly advantageous position. We could easily allow Iraq to become a religious, Shiite-dominated parliamentary state much like Iran, and walk away amid relative stability and substantial popular goodwill, at least among the majority Shiites, and quite probably the Kurds as well. We would have more influence over Iraq than we do Iran, and we could use that influence to encourage them to secularize and modernize, which might then have the effect, over time, of encouraging Iran to do the same.

If, on the other, hand, we allow some loose connection with reality to enter into our analysis, we have to conclude that the primary goal of the Iraq war is now and has always been to ensure permanent U.S. dominance of the Arabian peninsula by U.S. ground forces stationed inside Iraq.

If this were not the case, U.S. forces could now be withdrawn in their entirety or very nearly so. There would be some unrest, certainly, as there is now, but right now the majority is in control (with the cooperation of a large, affluent minority), they have formed a government, there is no widespread hot war beyond the generalized lawlessness that necessarily prevails after a strongman is deposed; the basic components of home rule are there.

The trouble with this scenario is that it would cause us to lose our grip on Iraq. It is not specifically about U.S. corporate control of Iraqi oil, although that is obviously an important consideration. As I wrote long ago, the plan in Iraq is to fashion a state much like Turkey, which is a military-dominated parliamentary system with most military hardware and training supplied indefinitely by the United States (thus giving us leverage over the government there.) Also like Turkey, we would maintain a substantial standing army inside the country.

You'll notice that unlike the mainstream or conservative media, it has not been necesary for me to change my analytical model every couple of months in order to incorporate new facts. Having to do this is always a sign that you are working at variance with reality.

Making Iraq look like Turkey will not be easy - the countries and the cultures are very dissimilar. In fact, in the long run, and this is where our brave leaders' realpolitik calculations fall apart, Iraq can probably never be made into a Turkish-style military/parliamentary hybrid. There are too many obstacles.

So what will happen? Most probably, the current waning of U.S. casualties will continue until the resistance becomes bold enough to actually mount an assault on U.S. forces inside the Green Zone. Once this happens, the war will reescalate and U.S. troop levels will be increased, which will escalate the war further. At this point the U.S. will be in a bind because it will need to get a massive number of troops from somewhere, either much wider use of mercenaries or, possibly, a military draft.

The only way out of this future is probably to bounce a massive percentage of the U.S. congress in the 2006 elections. That means Republicans and pro-occupation Democrats. This probably isn't as tough as it sounds - you don't have to be a pacifist (or even a Democrat) to want U.S. troops out of Iraq now. Under the official rubric, there is simply no good reason for them to remain there. Our government should either come clean about its intentions in Iraq or get the troops out.


Anonymous said...

"Last year US soldiers told the IoS that they do not tell their superiors about attacks on them unless they suffer casualties. This avoids bureaucratic hassle and "our generals want to hear about the number of attacks going down not up". This makes the official Pentagon claim that the number of insurgent attacks is down from 140 a day in January to 40 a day this month dubious."

Little bit of a logical error from the Holmes, there. Not to say that there weren't more than 40 attacks a day this month, but that the numbers were deflated in both time periods, so the number of attacks is still most likely down.

That from the "best English-language Iraq reporter going"? Sheesh.

Not that I disagree with your main point. We have accomplished what we said we were trying to do.


Adam P. Short said...

Perhaps a slight error in emphasis; no logical error. The actual quote - "This makes the official Pentagon claim that the number of insurgent attacks is down from 140 a day in January to 40 a day this month dubious."

The reason it's dubious is that the Pentagon has no idea how many attacks there were in April or in January. Had the Pentagon claimed that, as you said, "the number of attacks is most likely down, but we're not sure" that would not be dubious.

There is a stylistic error - an ambiguous "this." But hey, it's such a common error, maybe it's correct now, eh?

Anonymous said...

Heh heh. True.

Off-topic slightly (but it pertains to language): I didn't mention it earlier, because of the anon commments thing, but I dug your hyperbole article (and your honesty in admitting your own part in it).

Over on smelltheglory, I mentioned a few weeks ago that purchasing software from Apple was evil. For the record, that is not hyperbole. (grin)

Adam P. Short said...

You know, man, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there is no real rational reason left to hate Apple. As a longtime Apple-villifier, it hurts to say it, but it's true.

Apple has its place. If I had been in the market for a higher-end machine this last time around, I would have bought an iMac.

Anonymous said...

Well, since OSX came out and they built it on the BSD kernel, you can't be pissy about the software anymore. And the hardware has always been top notch. But the hardware is still overpriced, the launcher makes me feel like I'm playing a game of Super Mario, and though it breaks less often then Windows, when a Mac has an OS problem, it's about a billion times harder to solve it. With Windows, at least half the country has already had the problem.

But they are getting better. Still, I spend about a third on my dual-Athlon as my former roomate Bryan spent on his dual G5 of fairly quivalent speed (his might be a little faster, but I could always upgrade my procs). That's probably never going away because of the lack of hardware competition.

Apple aims at a specific market. I'm just not it.

Adam P. Short said...

You can fix the Super Mario aspect now if you hack the OS, which of course used to be impossible. Also the "billion times harder to fix" thing, once completely true (actually in my experience there was no real way to fix most Mac OS problems in the old days, just reinstall) is now more like 10,000 times harder.

But most of what you say is true. said...

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