William Lind on Iraq

One of the foremost theorists of Fourth Generation Warfare on why there is no Iraq:

The defining reality in Iraq is that there is no state. Because there is no state in Iraq, there is also no government. Orders issued in Baghdad have no impact because there are no state institutions to carry them out. Government institutions such as parliament and positions such as cabinet minister have no substance. Power comes from having a relationship with a militia, not a government office. The “Iraqi Security Forces” are groups of Shi’ite militias, which exist to fight other militias. They take orders from militia leaders, not the government. Government revenues are slush funds for militia leaders to pay their militiamen. The whole edifice Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus described exists only as a figment of the Bush administration’s imagination.

This is why Andrew Sullivan’s recent turn to “empirical” possible good news in Iraq is only good news for the Badr Corps Militia.  The government to the degree it exists (which isn’t much) exists to support the militias not the reverse.

Lind again:

In answer to a question before one of the committees, General Petraeus gave a particularly vivid example of how words disconnected from reality can deceive. (In this case the deception is no doubt self-deception.) He said, “We’ve got to continue. We have our teeth into the jugular, and we need to keep it [sic] there.” In a column in the April 13 Washington Post, David Broder wrote, “The general clearly likes that phrase, because he used it twice more during his visit to The Post.”

In Fourth Generation war, non-state opponents, such as those we face in Iraq and Afghanistan, have no jugular. They have no single point of vulnerability an opponent can hit to bring them down. (They may have such critical vulnerabilities internally, but only they can hit them, as al-Qaeda in Iraq seems to have done in alienating its Sunni base.) For outside forces such as ourselves, Fourth Generation war is war of the capillaries. What we have our teeth into in Iraq is a jellyfish.

The strategy of a unified non-sectarian Iraqi state with a strong central government is at odds both with what the Iraqi political actors themselves are doing and the surge/Awakening tactics.

Look at the reality.  The Iraqi Army is in essence The Peshmerga (Kurdish milita that controls/protects the Kurdish autonomous zone) and the Badr Corps (the milita that supports a Shia-autonomous zone in the South thereby disempowering the central gov’t).  The latter of which is trained and funded by Iran and the US simultaneously though those two are in the midst of saber rattling/proxy violence.  The US Army supported the creation of Sons of Iraq/Local Concerned Citizens Groups among the Sunnis–i.e. Militias.  And the Mahdi Army.  Another militia.  Making the US Army a Militia being used by other militias in a militia on militia fight.

The Sons of Iraq (i.e. formerly the Sunni Insurgency, Baathist and soft Islamist tribal) took out (mostly) the Salafi jihadist militia known as al-Qaeda Between the Two Rivers.  Maliki and the Badrists are in full throated intra-Shia civil conflict (which was predicted and inevitable) neither of whom the US should really have a stake in.  Both of whom will realign the second the US starts its withdrawal and the Sunni Sons of Iraq militia goes back after the Shia militias.

The central issue is the political reality does not match the military reality.  The guys who have power are the militias and Provincial Elections only hides this fact.  Namely that the pecking order is militia then government not the other way around.  And the US strategy and policy of keeping US troops in there (like McCain suggests) is predicated on flipping the mentality from militia-tribe-family-clan first to government first.  Get real.  Ain’t gonna happen.

Lind’s recommendations:

What should we do? First, we must understand what “winning” in Iraq means. It does not mean that Iraq becomes an American satellite. That remains the goal of the Bush administration and the neocons, but it is not and never was attainable.

Winning in Iraq simply means that a state re-emerges there. The rise of a new state in Iraq means defeat for al-Qaeda and other non-state entities, who are our real enemies. States don’t like competition, and real states do not permit non-state entities to exist on their territory (unless they are actually proxies the state plans to use against other states).

Second, we must accept the now well-proven fact that we cannot re-create a state in Iraq. We have tried for five years and we have nothing to show for it beyond 4,000 dead, tens of thousands wounded, and an empty treasury. The problem is legitimacy. Any state institutions we create or overtly support will not be accepted by the Iraqi people as legitimate. That is generally true of governments created and installed by foreign occupiers. The local response is, “Vichy ptui.”

A new state can only arise in Iraq independently of our efforts and indeed opposed to foreign occupation. We have to get out of the way and let it happen. It may not. There is no guarantee. There is, however, a guarantee that we cannot make it happen, so getting out of the way is the more promising road to victory. Strategy dictates that we come home, not as an acknowledgement of defeat but as a final bid to win.

Third, we must face the fact that a real Iraqi state is likely to be close to Iran. The solution is not to bomb Iran but to settle our differences—what diplomats call a rapprochement. Tehran has offered us a general settlement on quite generous terms. We should take them up on it. If the U.S. and Iran are no longer enemies, the fact that a new Iraqi state is allied with Iran is not a problem.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Congratulations on you marriage.

    CJ I’m sure you’ve been too busy, but in the elections in Kuwait, Salafees have added to their numbers in the government and is actually being held as a huge victory as they did better then the Muslim Brotherhood equivalent in Kuwait.

    This is big for a couple of reasons, first Salafees have stayed aware from politics, as in done in Saudi Arabia, mainly because of the partnership of the Wahhabi founder Muhammad Abdul Wahhab and the original King Saud and this has been the blueprint for the salafee movement around the globe. So what we see in Kuwait is a first and will most certainly be a blueprint or at least food for thought for other Salafees in the region.

    Secondly, Kuwait is a Gulf State that basically owes its continued existence to the US. Gulf states are known for their riches and decadence due to the large revenue from oil and their small populations, they are certainly not the bulkhead of conservatism like in Saudi Arabia. Not to mentions the US bases there. Nonetheless, the Salafees have gained more power. Some have argued this is due to the sectarian state of affairs in Iraq, which is having a polarizing effect, mainly because Kuwait has a minority Shiite population which has become more vocal, so the Sunnis seem to be closing their ranks.

    Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy, so the question is where does this end, how much power do they accumulate, and the biggest question would they eventually stand up to the Emir, which will have a consequence in all the different kingdoms in the region.

    Finally, my point is the so-called Islamist and now the Salafees: traditionalists are becoming more sophisticated with the nuance of modernity in politics, parties, and elections, and even more so than the other parties in the region. With that said the US will be less incline to talk about democracy in the region, however Pandora box has been opened and the more these groups gain popular support the more embolden they will become towards their Kings and Emirs. In this region, what happens in one country strongly influences what happen in the next. The US has to change their policies to take the continued trend into an account.

    CJ, if America had the opportunity to go back into time prior to the Iran’s Islamic Revolution, would they still support the oppressive Shah over the people of Iran. We see how that turned out. Here they have an opportunity to reverse that same course in the Sunni World and to even influence it, if they just read the writing on the wall.

  2. E,

    I hadn’t seen that by that is big news. Thanks for keeping me up to date. Really interesting to see where this all goes.

    peace.

    cj


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