The key point raised in the essay is the mistake of the American policy of “Iraqification”. In other words the American government has looked almost exclusively thorugh the lens of nationalism missing the reality of clan-based, ethnic forces on the ground.
The most disturbing piece he quotes from the recent Foreign Affairs article by military specialist Stephen Biddle. Biddle points out that to the Sunni populations, the Iraqi Army and Police Force (Nationalized,Iraqification) is in fact a legitimate, hyper muscular Shia-Kurdish militia. And in ths country we know what happens when an economically politically dis-enfranchised community thinks that the national security forces represent a “legitimate” form of state oppression—see American ghettos. Gangs in American terminology are known as militias in Iraqi sectors.
Here’s the most frightening passage,( I’ve boldfaced and highlighted the last sentece for emphasis):
In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, the military-affairs scholar Stephen Biddle has written a powerful and persuasive critique of administration policy that centers on Iraqification. “Iraq’s Sunnis,” he writes, “perceive the ‘national’ army and police force as a Shiite-Kurdish militia on steroids… The more threatened the Sunnis feel, the more likely they are to fight back even harder. The bigger, stronger, better trained, and better equipped the Iraqi forces become, the worse the communal tensions that underlie the whole conflict will get.” Biddle’s argument is that the central plank of current administration policy—”standing up” an Iraqi Army—is not just unhelpful but actively producing the negative spiral we are watching.
Reading that sentence really really scared me to my core. If it has taken the Bush administration this long to come up with this plan and this plan is actively fanning the fires, that is extremely fear-inducing.
I saw Wesley Clark on George S.’s political show Sunday morning on ABC. At least in terms of foreign policy vision–which to me right now is the most important issue vis a vis the presidency–he showed himself, to me, to be brighter than any other star in the political sphere. He was way out ahead of Hilary or McCain. It’s too bad bc he’s a political outsider that he won’t get the nomination. He’s certainly, in my mind, the most qualified for the job at this point.
The thing that has never and still does not make sense to me about Bush is why he could have such vision in terms of the seismic shift of foreign policy and what Thomas Barnett calls “The Big Bang” in the Middle East (that keeps on banging), and yet seem so careless and unconcerned about the outcome. Why he has not used up every tool in his kit for this one. He seems, I’m afraid, less and less tethered. He seems more isolated and willing to let his inner aides continue their pettty fiefdom squabbles–like Cheney trying to undermine Condi currently which is getting no press–and then playing lordly king throwing his children scraps here and there as he pleases. I’m very worried at this point.
Clark absolutely tore Bush (and the Democrats for failing to have any serious alternative) a new one. He correctly stated that one of the biggest flaws of this whole operation was to never involve Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran in the dealings–forget France and Germany or the UN. He talked about leveraging Arab Shi’ism versus Persian Shi’ism (read: Moqtada al-Sadr and Da’wa against the Iranian-backed SCIRI). He mentioned re-drafting the Constitution to involve the Sunnis.
Clark’s also the most honest, probably because he is currently not beholden to a political appointment, constituency, or fundraising base. He said at this point we have the choice between a C- solution and a F solution. And unfortunately Bush spouting off platitudes about how the Iraqis have a choice between freedom and chaos isn’t cutting it. He also said that the abuses by the Executive branch domestically are hurting our worldwide efforts. Amen brother.
According to Clark, Bush has never understood that victory in this War is political. Our Army can not lose against the insurgency but it can not win either. The same theme is mentioned by Zakaria. Every action (or inaction) we take is a deeply political choice and the politics are not primarily between “nationalism, freedom, and democracy” versus “terrorism, backwardness.” It is far far more complex than that simple outlook.