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Thread: Excellent article by Fareed Zakaria: We might win, but still lose.

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    Excellent article by Fareed Zakaria: We might win, but still lose.

    [QUOTE]January 15, 2007

    We Might 'Win,' But Still Lose
    By Fareed Zakaria

    For more articles by Fareed Zakaria, visit the archive.
    Everyone seems quite certain that George W. Bush's new plan for Iraq is bound to fail. But I'm not so sure. At a military level, the strategy could well produce some successes. American forces have won every battle they have fought in Iraq. Having more troops and a new mission to secure whole neighborhoods is a good idea-better four years late than never. But the crucial question is, will military progress lead to political progress? That logic, at the heart of the president's new strategy, strikes me as highly dubious.


    Administration officials have pointed to last week's fighting against Sunni insurgents in and around Baghdad's Haifa Street as a textbook example of the new strategy. Iraqi forces took the lead, American troops backed them up and the government did not put up any obstacles. The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger concluded that the battle "looked like a successful test of unified [American-Iraqi] effort."


    But did it? Newsweek's Michael Hastings, embedded with an American advisory team that took part in the fighting, reports that no more than 24 hours after the battle began on Jan. 6, the brigade's Sunni commander, Gen. Razzak Hamza, was relieved of his command. The phone call to fire him came directly from the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite.Lt. Col. Steven Duke, commander of a U.S. advisory team working with the Iraqis, and a 20-year Army veteran, describes Hamza as "a true patriot [who] would go after the bad guys on either side." Hamza was replaced by a Shiite.


    Joint operations against Shiite militias are far less likely, and not only because of political interference from the top. Groups like Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army don't generally start fire fights with the Americans or attack Iraqi forces. Their goals are different, quieter. Another U.S. adviser, Maj. Mark Brady, confirms reports that the Mahdi Army has been continuing to systematically take over Sunni neighborhoods, killing, terrorizing and forcing people out of their homes. "They're slowly moving across the river," he told Hastings, from predominantly Shiite eastern Baghdad into the predominantly Sunni west. If the 20,000 additional American troops being sent to the Iraqi capital focus primarily on Sunni insurgents, there's a chance the Shiite militias might get bolder. Colonel Duke puts it bluntly: "[The Mahdi Army] is sitting on the 50-yard line eating popcorn, watching us do their work for them."


    So what will happen if Bush's new plan "succeeds" militarily over the next six months? Sunnis will become more insecure as their militias are dismantled. Shiite militias will lower their profile on the streets and remain as they are now, ensconced within the Iraqi Army and police. That will surely make Sunnis less likely to support the new Iraq. Shiite political leaders, on the other hand, will be emboldened. They refused to make any compromises-on federalism, de-Baathification, oil revenues and jobs-in 2003 when the United States was dominant, in 2005 when the insurgency was raging, and in 2006 when they took over the reins of government fully. Why would they do so as they gain the upper hand militarily?


    Administration officials claim that this time things are different. The Maliki government, and the Shiite leadership more generally, understand that they must crack down on militias and compromise with the Sunnis. Why? In the words of one senior U.S. official-under instructions to stay anonymous-because Shiite political leaders understand they no longer have "unquestioning American support anymore, especially from Capitol Hill." This suggests that the administration finally understands that Bush's blank-check policy for the Iraqi government has proved totally counterproductive. The one action that might be forcing the Iraqi leadership to make some compromises has been the threat that Congress would force a withdrawal of American support. One month ago, the White House was criticizing Congress as being borderline treasonous for suggesting such a thing. Today its strategy in Iraq rests on the fruits of that assertiveness.


    Over the past three and a half years, the dominant flaw in the Bush administration's handling of Iraq is that it has, both intentionally and inadvertently, driven the country's several communities apart. Every seemingly neutral action-holding elections, firing Baathists from the bureaucracy, building up an Iraqi military and police force-has had seismic sectarian consequences. The greatest danger of Bush's new strategy, then, isn't that it won't work but that it will-and thereby push the country one step further along the road to all-out civil war. Only a sustained strategy of pressure on the Maliki government-unlike anything Bush has been willing to do yet-has any chance of averting this outcome.


    Otherwise, American interests and ideals will both be in jeopardy. Al Qaeda in Iraq-the one true national-security threat we face from that country-will gain Sunni support. In addition, as American officers like Duke and Brady have noted, our ideals will be tarnished. The U.S. Army will be actively aiding and assisting in the largest program of ethnic cleansing since Bosnia. Is that the model Bush wanted for the Middle East?

    Add Fareed Zakaria's column headlines to your news reader (via Newsweek):
    [/QUOTE]
    I think Zakaria raises some solid points about the possibility of Al Qaeda gaining Sunni support, and the concern towards de-baathification is something I've felt as well for the past few months.

    It seems as though Zakaria's point here is that this new strategy, while extremely high reward in theory, possibly was the highest risk strategy as well. Thus, is a high risk/high reward the best possible option right now?

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    [QUOTE=RutgersJetFan]I think Zakaria raises some solid points about the possibility of Al Qaeda gaining Sunni support, and the concern towards de-baathification is something I've felt as well for the past few months.

    It seems as though Zakaria's point here is that this new strategy, while extremely high reward in theory, possibly was the highest risk strategy as well. Thus, is a high risk/high reward the best possible option right now?[/QUOTE]

    The strategy [b]only[/b] works if it is applied to both Sunni and Shiite militias. Reportage suggests Maliki has informed al-Sadr that his militia will be disarmed by force, if necessary. So if he sticks to that, it can work.

    If not, it can't - plain and simple.

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    [QUOTE=doggin94it]The strategy [b]only[/b] works if it is applied to both Sunni and Shiite militias. Reportage suggests Maliki has informed al-Sadr that his militia will be disarmed by force, if necessary. So if he sticks to that, it can work.

    If not, it can't - plain and simple.[/QUOTE]
    Is this a product of Bush's influence? And will it be enough?

    I guess what I'm saying is, Zakaria seems to propose that Bush needs to take a harder stance on Maliki, much more so than he's proposing. Is that the action he's taking? It just doesn't seem so.

    Further, why is military progress looked at as the only way for political progress? As evident by the increased stubbornness on both sides, Sunni and Shiite, isn't an increase in BASIC security dilemma bound to pop up somewhere along the line? SOMEONE is going to try to gain the upperhand militarily, and the real question is will the securing of Baghdad be enough to prevent this from happening?

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    [QUOTE=RutgersJetFan]Is this a product of Bush's influence? And will it be enough?

    I guess what I'm saying is, Zakaria seems to propose that Bush needs to take a harder stance on Maliki, much more so than he's proposing. Is that the action he's taking? It just doesn't seem so.

    Further, why is military progress looked at as the only way for political progress? As evident by the increased stubbornness on both sides, Sunni and Shiite, isn't an increase in BASIC security dilemma bound to pop up somewhere along the line? SOMEONE is going to try to gain the upperhand militarily, and the real question is will the securing of Baghdad be enough to prevent this from happening?[/QUOTE]

    I don't know whether Bush is doing enough arm twisting, but the only way to do something like that right - especially in an Arab world almost automatically anti anything America is for - it has to be done behind closed doors. In other words, if Bush needs to be and [i]is[/i] pushing Maliki into something he doesn't want to do, we'd better not hear about it.

    As for why military progress is necessary, it's actually fairly simple - without a zone of safety in which to operate, political progress is pretty much impossible. It's hard to run a country when your citizens are being killed on a daily basis. Military progress isn't sufficient to stabilize Iraq, but it is a necessary precondition to the socio-political progress that is also required.

    Not that I have any practical experience with this kind of thing - but that's my take on it, for whatever it's worth.

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    it doesn't take a genius to figure out there is no winning formula for Iraq.

    It is a lost cause and it has been this way since the war began.

    The gov't should be sending engraved apologies to the families of those who died

    "the US Gov't apologizes that your son or daughter has died for no real reason"

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    [QUOTE=bitonti]it doesn't take a genius to figure out there is no winning formula for Iraq.

    It is a lost cause and it has been this way since the war began.

    The gov't should be sending engraved apologies to the families of those who died

    "the US Gov't apologizes that your son or daughter has died for no real reason"[/QUOTE]

    bit, the winning formula for Bush in Iraq is to beat Iran.....

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    [QUOTE=doggin94it]

    As for why military progress is necessary, it's actually fairly simple - without a zone of safety in which to operate, political progress is pretty much impossible. It's hard to run a country when your citizens are being killed on a daily basis. Military progress isn't sufficient to stabilize Iraq, but it is a necessary precondition to the socio-political progress that is also required.

    [/QUOTE]
    I'm just failing to see how this prevents an INCREASE in one side's security dilemma in the long run. Isn't it a little contradictory? Military progress is necessary for political progress, but it also leads to security concerns for both Sunni and Shiite. It seems like it's just going to keep going around in circles.

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    [QUOTE=Jetdawgg]bit, the winning formula for Bush in Iraq is to beat Iran.....[/QUOTE]

    yeah good luck with that

    iran is a bunch of badasses

    who is next after iran? Pakistan? Saudi Arabia?

    what happens after the USA has conquered every nation in the Middle East?

    They all probably end up in constant revolt like Iraq.

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    [QUOTE=RutgersJetFan]I'm just failing to see how this prevents an INCREASE in one side's security dilemma in the long run. Isn't it a little contradictory? Military progress is necessary for political progress, but it also leads to security concerns for both Sunni and Shiite. It seems like it's just going to keep going around in circles.[/QUOTE]

    Not when military progress = no armed militias on either side fighting in the streets. Having a government with a monopoly on the use of force is essential to a working state. It's not sufficient, but its necessary.

    The next necessary step is for the government to demonstrate that it can be [b]trusted[/b] with that monopoly - which can be accomplished by several steps:

    1) Using force sparingly and only when clearly necessary; once the running battles are done and the civillians in a particular area are not under daily threat, the government will need to bend over backwards to prove that it is not a sectarian tool. On the other hand, if the government is seen as favoring one sect over another, then any stability will be temporary and the security dilemmas will increase.

    2) Escalation of living conditions; as Kennedy said, a rising tide lifts all boats. If stability comes with tangible benefits for people in the conflict-free zones, it creates incentives for keeping the peace in those zones as well as a powerful goal for people in non-conflict free zones to work towards. On the other hand, if there are no tangible benefits to stability, then it is a negative example ("things will be no better if we cooperate, so lets keep fighting")

    The problem is that neither of those things can happen without military progress first; it's hard to improve living conditions if you are fighting gun battles in the streets and have to worry about car bombings every time you go to the market

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