Friday, November 24, 2006

Trapped In The Land of Death

I’m going to quote the AP article to describe the state of affairs in Iraq this weekend:
Shiite militiamen doused six Sunni Arabs with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, and killed 19 other Sunnis in attacks on their mosques Friday, taking revenge for the slaughter of at least 215 Shiites in the Sadr City slum the day before.
The mosque attacks came after the government, in a desperate attempt to avert civil war, imposed a sweeping curfew on the capital, shut down the international airport and closed the country's main outlet to the shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf

The same article contains a quote from a Shiite legislator:
Legislator Qusai Abdul-Wahab, an al-Sadr follower, blamed U.S. forces for Thursday's bombings in Sadr City because they failed to provide security.
"We say occupation forces are fully responsible for these acts, and we call for the withdrawal of occupation forces or setting a timetable for their withdrawal," Abdul-Wahab said.
Al-Sadr's followers hold six Cabinet seats and have 30 members in the 275-member parliament.

Describing what is happening there as a civil war is too simple and too nice. This is a war not just over power, but over religion, one that has gone on for hundreds of years. Our troops are in the middle of this, unwanted by most and unwelcome by nearly all. Those who claim to want victory in this disaster are fools – there will be no victory because there will be no end to the wanton killing. The only question should be when and how to leave the mess behind us.
Yet the best the Democrats seem to be offering is either the lame hope in the Baker-Hamilton Commission or a start to draw down troops in 4-6 months (the Levin proposal), with no fixed exit date. Those are not solutions, they are not exit strategies, they are merely political dances, an attempt to stake out a position which is different from Bush yet not decisive enough to be blamed for anything. They lack either philosophical or practical coherence.
To me there are only four real options. The McCain Option: send in more troops and take control of the damn place. This shows a complete lack of understanding of both the area and the state of our military. McCain believes more Americans will volunteer for duty if we call on them to do so and we can expand our Army to fill the need. To me, this lack of judgment disqualifies him from being President. Next is the Enough Already Option: get out now – or as fast as we humanly can. This has one strength: our troops stop dying for nothing. It’s a big strength, but is probably unworkable. How do we organize this withdrawal? More importantly, how do we explain this withdrawal internationally, other than as a sign of fear? The Biden Option: a political solution where we effectively divide the country into three ethnic states, in a loose federation. The problem with this is its complete unpopularity within Iraq. Then there is the Feingold Option: set a date certain, about a year from now, as the date we leave. This would focus the Iraqi Government and people on the establishment of a real national army and police force. We would ramp up our training budget, and provide them with the kind of materials and armored vehicles they need to fight the war on their own. It would be an early investment but have a finite end.
From my point of view, the last option is clearly the best. We also would need to tell the Iraqi Government that we will do what we have to in order to protect our troops, regardless of their wishes. We might withdraw from Baghdad and head for Kurdistan, where we might be more useful.
I am not naive. I do not believe that we will leave a stable Iraq with a functioning democratic government and peace and security for its people. The fact that in this morning’s massacre the Iraqi Army was there and did nothing, tells us all we need to know about the current state of their military, which is more a collection of ethnic and religious militias than a national force. I do think that in a moral sense, we need to give them a chance to get their act together, armed with the knowledge that we are leaving. I think in the geopolitical sense, we need to be seen as giving them that chance.
We do not know the answer to John Kerry’s famous quote, about another military disaster, “who will be the last man (or woman, in this war) to die for a mistake?” We must at least know the answer to when that will happen. We owe our soldiers that much.


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