The future of Iraq

Discussion in 'Free Speech Alley' started by Mystikalilusion, May 26, 2005.

  1. Mystikalilusion

    Mystikalilusion Founding Member

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    The reality of staying the course
    By Professor Juan Cole (Michigan)

    The US military cannot defeat the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement any time soon for so many reasons that they cannot all be listed. The guerrillas have widespread popular support in the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, an area with some 4 million persons. Its cities and deserts offer plenty of cover for an unconventional war.

    The guerrillas are mainly Iraqi Sunnis with an intelligence or military background, who know where secret weapons depots are containing some 250,000 tons of missing munitions, and who know how to use military strategy and tactics to good effect. They are well-funded and can easily get further funding from Gulf millionnaires any time they like.

    There are simply too few US troops to fight the guerrillas. There are only about 70,000 US fighting troops in Iraq, they don't have that much person-power superiority over the guerrillas. There are only 10,000 US troops for all of Anbar province, a center of the guerrilla movement with a population of 820,000. A high Iraqi official estimated that there are 40,000 active guerrillas and another 80,000 close supporters of them. The only real explanation for the successes of the guerrillas is that the US military has been consistently underestimating their numbers and abilities. There is no prospect of increasing the number of US troops in Iraq.

    The guerillas have enormous advantages, of knowing the local clans and terrain and urban quarters, of knowing Arabic, and of being local Muslims who are sympathetic figures for other Muslims. American audiences often forget that the US troops in Iraq are mostly clueless about what is going on around them, and do not have the knowledge base or skills to conduct effective counter-insurgency. Moreover, as foreign, largely Christian occupiers of an Arab, Muslim, country, they are widely disliked and mistrusted outside Kurdistan.

    The political process in Iraq has been a huge disaster for the country. The Americans emphasized ethnicity in their appointments and set a precedent for ethnic politics that has deepened over time. The Shiite religious parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, won the January 30 elections. These are the parties least acceptable to the Sunni Arab heartland. The Sunni Arabs are largely absent in parliament, only have one important cabinet post, and only have two members in the 55-member constitutional drafting committee. Deep debaathification has led to thousands of Sunnis being fired from their jobs for simply having belonged to the Baath Party, regardless of whether they had ever done anything wrong. They so far have no reason to hope for a fair shake in the new Iraq. Political despair and the rise of Shiite death squads that target Sunnis are driving them into the arms of the guerrillas.

    The quality of leadership in Washington is extremely bad. George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and outgoing Department of Defense officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, have turned in an astonishingly poor performance in Iraq. Their attempt to demonstrate US military might has turned into a showcase for US weakness in the face of Islamic and nationalist guerrillas, giving heart to al-Qaeda and other unconventional enemies of the United States.

    If the US drew down its troop strength in Iraq too rapidly, the guerrillas would simply kill the new political class and stabilizing figures such as Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Although US forces have arguably done more harm than good in many Sunni Arab areas, they have prevented set-piece battles from being staged by ethnic militias, and they have prevented a number of attempted assassinations.

    In an ideal world, the United States would relinquish Iraq to a United Nations military command, and the world would pony up the troops needed to establish order in the country in return for Iraqi good will in post-war contract bids. But that is not going to happen for many reasons. George W. Bush is a stubborn man and Iraq is his project, and he is not going to give up on it. And, by now the rest of the world knows what would await its troops in Iraq, and political leaders are not so stupid as to send their troops into a meat grinder.

    Therefore, I conclude that the United States is stuck in Iraq for the medium term, and perhaps for the long term. The guerrilla war is likely to go on a decade to 15 years. Given the basic facts, of capable, trained and numerous guerrillas, public support for them from Sunnis, access to funding and munitions, increasing civil turmoil, and a relatively small and culturally poorly equipped US military force opposing them, led by a poorly informed and strategically clueless commander-in-chief who has made himself internationally unpopular, there is no near-term solution.
     
  2. CParso

    CParso Founding Member

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    Well, atleast it was written by someone impartial... :dis:

    I agree that we will be there for another 15 years or so. Bush himself has said that this is for the long-haul, to bring democracy to this country is no easy task.

    I think he overestemates the guerrilla's strengths. If they were as powerful as he claims they are, Iraq would be in much worse shape. It's not exactly a play pin there now, but I think he exaggerates their numbers & their powers.
     
  3. Mystikalilusion

    Mystikalilusion Founding Member

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    Whoops, I had meant to slip that in somewhere, he's pretty pro-being anti-bush. Impartial, he's not.

    Is 15 years ok with you though? My god, (recorded) US involvement in Vietnam was 14 years. I treated the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam as interesting, but not all that factual, but if it does go that length, and we still have to pull out with the mission (whether necessary or not) unaccomplished, and all those soldiers and civilians died for nothing again. . . wow

    Talk about not learning from the mistakes of the past. . .
     
  4. Jetstorm

    Jetstorm Founding Member

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    Typical Juan Cole defeatism. In fact, he gleefully hopes for defeat and failure in Iraq, hoping it will damage President Bush.

    Mr. Cole doesn't think very much of the Iraqis themselves, obviously. The new govt. is now seated. How about we give them a chance before dismissing them out of hand? How about giving the Iraqi security forces a chance to take on greater security and control responsibilities (something they are already moving forward with) before completely dismissing them out of hand?

    It's tough for the Sunnis, no doubt. They went from priveliged upper-class to outflanked minority literally overnight. However, this is the way it is, and it's not gonna change. They will never rule Iraq again. The halcyon days of Saddam and Baath Party rule are over. Now that the Shi'ites have a place at the table, they aren't giving that up. Neither are the Kurds.

    The new govt. and the U.S. need to stick with the "carrot and stick" approach with regards to the Sunnis, no matter how bad their temper tantrums get. They need to be shown violence will not get them what they want, but that participation in the new govt. will get them a better quality of life. A small victory was won shortly after the election when Sunni religious leaders admitted that it was a mistake to boycott the elections. They were counting on complete and total failure and/or a bloodbath. Neither happened, and they ended up on the outside looking in. Very bad move. I look for much greater Sunni participation next year when the Constitution is ratified and the permanent govt. is voted on.
     
  5. CParso

    CParso Founding Member

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    Absolutely not. If it's last 15 years it will be because that's how long it takes to get things settled there - not because we couldn't handle the situation & have to pull out.

    At first, Iraq looked like it could become another Vietnam but it has progressed further & further from that possability.
     
  6. red55

    red55 curmudgeon Staff Member

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    Amen. We won the war in 21 days! Saddam is in prison and the WMD's were never there. What are we still doing there? We never went there to establish democracy--there are no democracies anywhere in the arab world. Never have been--never will be. Democracy is incompatible with Islam. We went there to to show the world that George Bush is not a pussy. And he is certainly not. But he is as dumb as a bag of hammers and he has weakened the US militarily and politically.

    Geez, you are starting to sound like Sourdough, Parso. Fifteen years! And you don't see the obvious Vietnam parallels!

    We didn't actually lose the Vietnam War militarily. How can you lose a war in which you win every battle? We quit the Vietnam War because it was gaining us nothing for the 58,000 dead young men from my generation and billions of dollars badly needed elsewhere. It was a quagmire guerilla insurgency with no way for us to win. We have failed to learn the lesson of Vietnam, clearly.

    You will begin to see the politics in America turn against this war in Iraq. We were all for Vietnam in the beginning, too. As it went on, the lies and mistakes from the administration became more and more obvious. Anti-war feeling increased and spread from just politically-minded students to Mom'N'Dad and Joe Average and eventually Cronkite himself. Bush won't allow the caskets returning home to be photographed, but he is not fooling the public. There may only be a few dissenting voices now, but everybody will be getting on the train as this drags on. By 1972 nobody in the friggin' country thought we should still be in Vietnam.

    Just like Johnston in 1964 the war is what got George Bush elected in 2004. But in 2008 the continuing Iraqi occupation will leave him discredited, will be a millstone around the neck of his party and it will get the opposition elected. Deja vu. History will be as unkind to George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld as it has been to Lyndon Johnson and Robert MacNamara. And for good reason. This war is not only a disaster, . . . it is a snowballing disaster.

    If Vietnam taught us anything at all, it is to either go in with everything you've got and get the job done quickly or don't involve ground troops at all. And you damn sure don't get bogged down in the enemy's kind of war.

    The Iraq occupation is clearly deteriorating going into its third year and there is no end in sight. Do we hang around for a decade or so at 5,000 casualties and $75 billion a year? It took eight years and 375,000 casualties to get out of Vietnam and still left it in communist hands. We're still in Korea after 50 years and Korea is now a nuclear powder keg. Whether we leave tomorrow or decades from now, the place will go to hell when we're gone.

    Panama, Grenada, and Kuwait were smart wars, won quickly with overwheming airpower and a massive ground invasion followed by a prompt withdrawal of troops. Libya and Kosovo were smart wars involving airpower alone, no ground involvement, and won with 2 casualties (Libya) or none at all (Kosovo).

    Iraq, like Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia, is an unwise war where we are occupying a country where they hate us for reasons that are hard to understand. We didn't win any of these wars, nor did we lose them. We just walked away, because it was in our best interests to do so. Sooner or later we will have to leave Iraq, too.

    What exactly would constitute victory in Iraq? People keep telling me that we have to win this Iraq war. Well, how exactly do we do that? The security is worse than it was three years ago. We've already beaten their army and occupied the country. In that sense, we have already won. There is not a democracy anywhere in the Arab world and Iraqis clearly don't understand how it works. We could be there for decades, endlessly patrolling, still taking casualties from people who hate us.

    I say, just leave them to stew in their own juices. If the Iraqis won't cooperate in the rebuilding of their country so we can turn it over to them and leave, then we can just LEAVE. Civilians, military, everybody.

    Let them kill each other instead of us.

    We tried to help the poor starving Somalis and they sh!t all over us. So, we took our guns, our food, and our dollars home and left the bastards to fend for themselves. It was the same fools errand in Vietnam and Lebanon. It is a waste of our lives and our treasure trying to occupy a country where they hate us and are trying to kill our soldiers.

    Let them have the friggin' place. We don't need it. Saddam is gone and Iraq is defanged as a military force. Al Qaida only came there when we offered them all of these American targets. We gain nothing by hanging around any longer.
     
  7. LSUDeek

    LSUDeek All That She Wants...

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    You are horribly wrong.

    As soon as American forces depart without a strong, pro-democracy, pro-American government in place, a Taliban-style, terrorist-friendly government will come in, start setting up terrorist training camps, and Al-Qaida type organizations will begin increasing in power until we have rashes of 9/11 type attacks.

    There is no jungle/forest territory in which the Iraqi forces can root down in and master. We have infrastructure support in and around the area, unlike Vietnam. We have better equipment and better-trained soldiers.

    You may have a point in that we should have never invaded in the first place, but now that we are there, it is absolutely imperative to stay the course.

    Even the liberals agree.
     
  8. Frogleg

    Frogleg Registered Best

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    as so often is the case, the true reasons for an action are not obvious.

    Post 9/11, we went to war with Iraq to set a precedent, whereby any government with even suspicions of associations with terrorist, and probable capability of aiding them will be toppled. This was such a powerful thing we did, with the added benefit of further controling the life-blood of world economies (black gold), and spreading democracy where it needs it most. Brilliant.

    Mainstream media glosses over the huge successes caused or aided by the war in Iraq, like Afgan, Libya, Lebanon, and others, eventually Iraq will be a success story as well.

    The Bush administration made a brilliant move, and will benefit Americans from generations to come.
     
  9. red55

    red55 curmudgeon Staff Member

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    There is this possibility. But we can take down a Taliban-style terrorist operation as we did in Afghanistan, without trying to occupy and convert the place into little America.

    They key here is not the terrrain. It is the ability of the enemy to hide in the civilan population, whom also give it support. Guerrilla wars in urban areas are even more difficult to deal with. You can't use napalm and cluster bombs.

    Failure in Vietnam was not due to insufficient infrastructure. Indeed, the Cold War/Vietnam military infrastructure was immense compared to today. Failure in Vietnam was political and it came from Washington. Neither the military nor its infrastructure was to blame.

    Yes we do, just as we did in Vietnam. The enemy is also more advanced and is also utilizing high-technology.

    Hell, TRA, I would agree, too. But what exactly is the course, amigo? I think it is in America's best interest not to be taking casualties and wasting billions in a futile effort to bring democracy to these raghead bastards when it ain't likely to stick.

    This is just my Iraq war rant. I don't really advocate instant pullout. But it is time for a clear exit strategy. One that should have been in place before we went to war (ie The Powell Doctrine). "Stay the course" when there is no apparent map or "Onward, through the fog" when there is no apparent path seems kind of a weak political strategy. We deserve better. Our military deserves better.
     
  10. LSUDeek

    LSUDeek All That She Wants...

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    You don't think Afghanistan is as close to 'little America' as humanly possible given its population?

    How many bases did we have around the area in the 60's? I find it hard to believe that we had any in the Asian area other than Japan and the Phillippines.

    I am comparing American troops of today with American troops of the late 60's. The relative difference between us and the enemy is much more pronounced than it used to be.

    Maybe I misread your post, but "Let them have the friggin' place. We don't need it. Saddam is gone and Iraq is defanged as a military force. Al Qaida only came there when we offered them all of these American targets. We gain nothing by hanging around any longer." sounds like advocation of instant pullout to me.
     

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