Break Point in Iraq?

Some excellent thinking on Iraq, from George Friedman at Strategic Forecasting:

In other words, the United States has become, to a great extent, a bystander. Washington can make whatever guarantees it wants, but the calculus by all sides now is whether they can secure their interests with their own resources. At this point, the United States is growing less and less relevant to the outcome in Iraq, though it remains urgently interested in what that outcome will be.

If we had to guess, we would say that the political arrangement should work, more or less. But we don't have to guess. It is now nearly Memorial Day. The violence in Iraq will surge, but by July 4 there either will be clear signs that the Sunnis are controlling the insurgency -- or there won't. If they are controlling the insurgency, the United States will begin withdrawing troops in earnest. If they are not controlling the insurgency, the United States will begin withdrawing troops in earnest. Regardless of whether the deal holds, the U.S. war in Iraq is going to end: U.S. troops either will not be needed, or will not be useful.

The U.S. may be at the end of its rope in Iraq, but by taking action in Iraq, has set in motion a number of significant shifts in the region, including:
  • Saddam Hussein and his sons will no longer pose any threat to the region, and any ruling power in Baghdad will pose fare less of a threat to the region.
  • The Syrians, forced to shift forces to confront the United States, lost control over Lebanon.
  • Increased media interest in the region forced progress on the Palestinian issue.
  • Ghadafi, fearing Libya would be next in line for "regime change", suddenly turned over its WMD program, along with considerable intelligence about weapons development by other nations and groups.

If we left now, the region is far better off than it was in 2001, and certainly 1991. Not perfect by any means, but then again, it never was.

In the end, it may turn out that Iraq was a flawed and unworkable entity, established by arbitrary post-World War I Britain and France, that like Cold War-era Yugoslavia, could only be held together by brute force. Or the three groups that make up Iraq will gradually come to the realization that was reached in Lebanon in recent years - co-existence is a reality, so it may as well be a peaceful and cooperative one.

Who knows? In any event, it is a decision that only the people of Iraq can make.

5 Response to "Break Point in Iraq?"

  1. Scott B 26/5/06 22:30
    While I do agree with you on most of your points I have to disagree a bit on your stance that if we pulled out now the region would be better off than it was in 2001.

    The reason I say this is based on two factors:

    1. Iran's current nuclear program and the movements of fundamentalist zealots to start Jihads. With the threat of nuclear attack possible, Iraq’s fledgling government might not be able to stop an invasion, and support from internal religious groups might help destabilize the government.

    2. If such and invasion was to happen, the international community might not come together as it did in the first Gulf war. The UN’s response might just be, “The US caused this mess, go fix it yourself.” Which could cause a worse situation then is happening now.
  2. Earl Capps 27/5/06 02:00
    Scott - first allow me to welcome you to my posting "family".

    You raise good points, but considering Iran has nuclear neighbors to the east (India and Pakistan) and Saddam-era Iraq to the west, isn't it possible that their efforts are partially motivated by some very legitimate security concerns?

    We've seen a sort of domino effect, which began with the Chinese developing mid-range missiles in the late 90s, in this region with nuclear weapons. First India to protect against China, then Pakistan to protect against India, and now Iran.

    I'm sure there are a number of motives, including a desire to fill the power vacuum created by the fall of Saddam, as well. But one should consider the full range of motives before one can begin to come up with an effective approach.

    Your second point certainly could be true. The "china store" rule may well apply long after our involvement is over.

    While there has been some progress in this region, it still remains problematic to understand and address these continuing problems.

    Maybe that's why Britain and France were so eager to divide it up after WW1 and get the heck out of there?
  3. The Body Politic - Joshua Gross 29/5/06 10:55

    Good points all, but let me remind you of something. Early this year, it came out that the bankrolling of Libya's nuclear program was none other than Saddam himself. 20,000 Iraqi nuclear physicists and scientists, working in the Libyan desert. This is why Qaddafi "suddenly" turned over his WMD program -- he didn't have anyone to pay for it any longer.
  4. Earl Capps 29/5/06 21:04

    I hadn't heard that one before, but it certainly wouldn't suprise me if Hussein used this approach.

    During the 1920s and 30s, Germany formed alliances with other nations to allow them to develop and test forbidden weapons outside of Germany, which were later brought back to Germany when Hitler decided to break arms limitations for full development and manufacture.

    Since Iraq was restricted in such a manner, this would certainly have allowed them one way to circumvent those restrictions.

    However, if you could find your source, I'd be interested in seeing it.
  5. The Body Politic - Joshua Gross 30/5/06 08:38

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