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12 September 2007

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dws

Brian from the "Life of Brian"? Yes! I must think for myself! What would you like me to think about?

Both points of view (we're in trouble pushing Iraq Shia towards Iran; we're being smart creating negotiating partners) could be right. How will these dynamics balance or interact?

In Physics 101, students learn about equilibrium. A ball in a cereal bowl has an equilibrium point at the bottom - a place where it can rest stably.

In Physics 201, students learn that a system can have an equilibrium point but take a long time to find it. The glass in your windows is not in equilibrium and NEVER will be. I think Iraq is in a glassy state.

FDChief

In pursuit of thinking for myself, I tried to recall a specific situation in which a minority group associated with a recently deposed brutal dictatorship had won itself a place in the government by being supported by a foreign occupier, and, frankly, the only place I could come up with was Napoleonic Spain, and that a poor analogy.

The belief that the Sunni tribal aufsteig-zur-macht will bring the Shia to the table assumes that the Shia have reason to believe that the Sunni are a) able to fight them to a standstill, and b) willing to use their renewed power only to negotiate a settlement and not attempt to regain overall power in Baghdad. Frankly, I'm not sure why they could or should credit either.

This meme also presupposes that the Sunni tribes will be able to function as a bargaining unit, not only to shoulder their way back into the government but as a bloc once back IN government. Given the way the Shia factions appear to be turning on each other I'm not sure this is a reasonable belief, either.

I think the unvoiced idea here is that what will result from this Sunni remilitarization is some sort of partition or a federal state. But I seem to recall that the Bosnians had that notion, too, only to find that Milosovich and his people were unwilling to let them go and WERE willing to do something bloody about it.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying this idea has no merit. I certainly don't have a better idea. But I'm saying that, like so many ideas I've seen floated for Iraq since 2001, this seems to have a large element of magical thinking involved in postulating success.

FDChief

Oh, and I didn't enlarge the picture until after writing my comment.

Nice. Now THERE's a model.

Splitter.

jonst

Charles,

Understand your point. However, does not Bush/Cheney become the wild card here? If I was in the Shia ruling groups....I would be saying to myself, the US wants to attack Iran. The Sunnis, some of the them, think the Iranians (Persians) are their real enemy. There is a natural inclination to assume that the two forces are hooking up for a reason and that reason is Iran. Left alone, perhaps they could work things out...in the middle of an emerging, wider war (if it comes to that)...people are going to forced to pick sides. And as a Shia I would be asking what price are the Sunnis going to extract for their cooperation with the occupiers?

confusedponderer

I find jonst's idea compelling. The consequence of that will then be … partition?

Mad Dogs

So it appears the Administration policy now has gone back to basics (or hit rock-bottom if you prefer) and goes something like this:

"Let's arm everybody and the last folks standing get to be our buds."

The "Darwin" policy of statecraft has a long and...ahmmm...illustrious history and has been practiced by many a befuddled Empire.

"We don't like the lay of the dice, so let's tumble 'em again."

anna missed

Seems to me that with the new Anbar model, another larger shift in policy is must be presumed. And that is turn toward some form of hyper federalism or partition. Up until this program was initiated, I think the U.S. policy was against the partition models, but having embraced the Anbar model, partition appears the logical consequence, and so the partition policy inferred. Because establishing these relations (guns&butter) that strengthen the tribes, has the inverse reaction of significantly weakening the central government logically follows - and is pretty evident by Maliki's reaction to it. Oddly, or ironically, much of Maliki's behavior - and importantly! the U.S.'s de-facto tolerance of this behavior, has actually acted to winnow and undermine the central government down to skeletal status. At every turn Maliki has not only allowed (encouraged?) all his potential allies to fly the coop, but has threatened to replace them with unaffiliated technocrats. So, while the Anbar deal rebuilds decentralized Sunni military and political power, both formidable threats, Maliki has overseen a steady erosion of the central state.(which at this point, cannot even pass legislation). Instead of from the "ground up" the slogan should be "from the ground, farther down"as the hopes of most Iraqi's (recent BBC/ABC poll) for a strong central state fade away into a minutia of fragments.

Montag

I believe it was Goethe who wrote in the preface to one of his books: "This book is a mirror--when a monkey peers in, no scholar stares back."

When reading the Flatheads however, when a scholar peers in, a monkey stares back every time.

frank durkee

Just a note. We need to remember that the Sunni tribal reaction to AQI is one of self interest and wanting to control their own lives as much as posssible. this is local. At a larger level they need to be able to have sufficient force in whatever guise to countervail enough the other two groups or they face marginalzation or worse. the way to that is through their own malitias and police. so they're doing what makes sense to arm and go after AQI. If Col. Lang is correct and DP is trying to get us out then perhaps he is setting up Lt. Gen [ret] Odom's strategy of retire to the edges and let thm fight it out and deal with the winner. If not them perhaps he is seeking to build up an effective Sunni block so thaat there is in fact someone with 'street' authority to interact with. since it appears DP is also interacting with the Mahadi group this might be the underlying strategy. A guess, perhaps an inappropriate one, but one which puts some confidence in he and Crocker being persons of some real smarts trying to work a very dificult situation.

npbeachfun

Check into this Capt. Travis Patriquin. He died in Iraq, but before he did he submitted a plan w/ ppt. I diaried about him on DK in dec. 06. Here are some links for you.

After posting this Diary as well as a follow up a couple days after christmas Turning Iraq's Tribes Against Al-Qaeda / Shieks the new plan

I received an email regarding an article printed after his death in military review January-February 2007 PDF   HTML

His conclusion in military review...seem to be what has worked in Ramadi and now the infamous Anbar. His work is worth revisiting.

dws

The hold up to withdrawal is humanitarian and strategic. The Colonel addressed the strategic in his "advice to Democrats".

Are the Iraqis trying hard enough? Doing the best they can? I'm starting to realize these aren't useful questions. If mass murder ensues, we'll be responsible in part, no matter any indictment against the Iraqis.

There does not seem to be a long term solution to prevent militia based violence that we would be willing to impose. A lot of people are going to continue to suffer. Can we at least prevent pitched battles, use of weaponry that permits mass destruction of cities, etc?

De facto partition, taking sides in different conflicts (e.g. Anbar, Badr in the south?), continued air presense, substantial special forces in Kuwait and Kurdistan (supplied how?) are options I've heard towards this end. Also diplomacy.

We didn't win the Cold War through major triumphs, although there were some. We managed the war until the USSR lost.

JohnH

A most interesting discussion. If successful, this could be a model for Palestine: arm the Palestinians, build them up as a credible force, and then the Israelis will have someone to negotiate with. Why didn't we think of that sooner?

McGee

Montag,

Thank you for the Flathead and Monkeys reference, but it should have been preceded by a SPEW ALERT. Now I'm going to have to go clean off my keyboard.....

jonst

Frank,

Perhaps, as you note, and as I believe the Col alluded to in a recent posting, Sadr may prove to the key here. Perhaps he has other ambitions than to be the leader of the newest, and western most, 'province the state of Iran. I'm not sold on Crocker. He looked, and sounded, burnt out to me. Perhaps it was no more than a bad case of jet lagged. Or something he eat. I'm not being flippant here. God knows it can happen. But he looked and sound terrible. He may just be fried. One could not blame him. But as the Col also notes....none of this speculation (on how to put Humpty Dumpty back together)matters a wit if these guys are bound and determined to go after Iran. In the end...from Egypt (and who knows what will happen there if Murbark dies?)to Pakistan....I see sides being drawn up.

jonst

an 'Anbar model' two part report. For those interested. No opinion, one way or another on the validity of it all. But very interesting, at least to me.

http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/

Binh

Some evidence that Sadr and the Sunnis could form an cross-sectarian alliance (aimed at ridding Iraq of occupation):

Sep 12 (AFP)

Shiites and Sunnis marched on Wednesday in protest at the building by US troops of a tall concrete wall separating their northwest Baghdad neighbourhoods, an AFP photographer said.

The protesters complained that the wall would promote sectarianism and demanded its removal.

Residents said that US forces last week began building the two-kilometre (1.25 mile) wall along the border of the mainly Shiite al-Shuala and adjoining Sunni-majority al-Ghazaliyah neighbourhoods without consulting them.

The demonstrators -- tribal leaders, clerics and local residents -- marched from one neighbourhood to the other carrying banners reading “No to the dividing wall” and “The wall is US terrorism.”

The protesters demanded in a statement that the government intervene to halt the wall and ensure that the section already completed is demolished.

“The wall is dividing small neighbourhoods and will lead to the partitioning of Iraq,” said Hassan al-Taii, a leader of the large Taii Sunni tribe.

He demanded that the Baghdad government destroy the wall and act against those “planting division and sectarianism among Iraqis.” [That would mean taking action against PM Maliki. Don't hold your breath.]

Many Iraqis argue that the barricades will only heighten tensions between Sunnis and Shiites by segregating the once mixed city.

During Wednesday’s protest, demonstrators carried Iraqi flags and chanted, “No, no to terrorism”, and “Yes, yes to unity.”

“This wall does not provide security and stability,” said Shiite cleric Abdul Baqir al-Subaihawi. “The government must maintain security in Baghdad rather than separate its neighbourhoods,” he added.

Nationalist leader Moqtada al-Sadr has urged artists to paint the concrete barriers springing up around Baghdad with murals showing what he dubbed the “ugly face” of the US military in Iraq.

The Baghdad council has employed professional artists to paint the walls with calming landscapes and scenes depicting Iraq’s natural beauty, but Sadr -- a firebrand preacher and militia leader -- had something more dramatic in mind.

“I call on you to draw magnificent tableaux that depict the ugliness and terrorist nature of the occupier, and the sedition, car bombings, blood and the like he has brought upon Iraqis,” he said.

Stephen Calhoun

There are so many questions, many pointing to paradoxes and contradictions, that the thing that mitigates my own thinking for myself is a kind of drowning feeling.

Nevertheless. It seems to me our strategy should be well informed and liberated from ignorant prejudices. I know there is a lot of brain power being applied.

Still, my inchoate thought is that it seems it is not fully integrated that the codes and protocols and strategems of the tribes invoke deal-making, figuring who's buttering your bread, planning for that bread to disappear, (etc.,) and, these do not end up reinforcing a satisfying (to us) Western-style *stable* bureaucracy-driven governance.

Groping for a metaphor about this I conjur a combination of 3 dimensional chess and a drinking game where our side is less experienced. At chess.

jonst

For anyone who click on, and viewed, the link I posted above.

Man, THAT WAS QUICK.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Iraq.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

Charles I

JohnH, I was talking in vast generalities about intra-state (abeit a very
battered state) conflict, though I reduce the same to one universal law below. The Occupation of Palestine, a state yet to be defined, except those bits the Israeli's claim by force, is yet a different amalgam of a more inter-state nature. Of course, each of the entities is riven by internal struggle twisted by foreign influence. Witness Anbar, Gaza, Afghanistan or anywhere.

In the Palestinian example, they won't submit, can't easily be quickly exterminated or expelled by Israel. If any of the above were possible, Israel would never even pretend to negotiate as it does now. It would celebrate. I am morally certain that Israel must be FORCED to make just peace; it will never occur otherwise. Man and state require some degree of compulsion to "get along" even when of similar origin, complexion and endowment. Sometimes never moreso than then. It's my honest belief that if the Palestinians had a state-of-the-art-U.S.-paid-for arsenal, complete with WMD, peace would break out eventually.

Instead, today the Wall is a starkly refined manifestation of the Israeli delusion about what Eretz peace looks like. As the mournful, celebratory fervour of a suicide bomber's mother is of Palestinian despair and desperation, but I digress. An equilibrium that cannot indefinitely be sustained by force alone exists. They will fight to agree to a real state or futilely aspire to the other’s annihilation in a venue full of of meddlesome outsiders. The dreary invisible submission fantasized in Israel cannot be achieved, while the apocalyptic agenda of Hamas is not to be writ in stone, but more prosaically in the blood of the hoi polloi on both sides, most who mainly aspire to peace and quiet and a little rain.

But the beckoning Potemkin Republic on the Tigris envisioned by the Decider is a fantasy awakened from. A new effort must be made.

Steve Calhoun, you seem to bemoan that the reality of Iraq does “not end up reinforcing a satisfying (to us) Western-style *stable* bureaucracy-driven governance”.

Well, no. But for heaven’s sake, why on Earth should it? This is an instance where we need to get our heads into their sand, or it will simply swallow us whole, after we bomb the shit out of it. Western thinking, or lack thought, that is, is the problem with western thinking about anywhere else except the first world. Got us into this mess in the first place, will obdurately carry us to many more I’m sure.

Think of how absurd Osama’s recent call for Americans to convert to Islam overthrow capitalism is, at least on the level of it apparent to us. An unnatural thought, in our world, as much of our natural political thoughts and ideas are in his. A fat bearded sheik running a corrupt but restrained satrap from his harem would be an attainable paradise compared to the toxic fruit of our labours. A wahabbi-less Saudi Arabia in Iraq would shimmer like a gold prize if one materialized now.

So tawdrier constructs must be drawn from the Iraqi soil to rebuild civil societies to a point where they acquire a modicum (I first wrote here “the wisdom of” – what an optimist) of self-interested self-restraint facilitating some national reconciliation and a relatively innocuous U.S. withdrawal. One hopes. Obviously going to take a long while, the indignant self-righteous chorus from my limbic system clamouring “TROOPS OUT NOW” notwithstanding.

In the real world, The Shaik of shaiks of the Abu Ghraib region just north of Baghdad, about 250,000 people, is featured at the end of an informative Al Jezeera clip from youtube, cited over at Juan Cole today, clip found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohVqe5fkjdo&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ejuancole%2Ecom%2F.

The Shaik dismisses the Malaki government as an enemy of the Iraqi people in league with Iran, the Iraqi army as worse than useless. The Shaik is now paid for delivering cohorts in the hundreds to the U.S. supporters of that hated government for training to take over local security. They bring their own guns its said, and their own footwear it looks, though somebody did spring for dark sweats and white t’s all around. An American officer/trainer/paymaster narrates training shots of the drilling tribesmen, musing about them “‘being incorporated into central government forces in the future.”

So jonst, you ask

Q: "as a Shia I would be asking what price are the Sunnis going to extract for their cooperation with the occupiers?"

A: Some price between what the fight is worth to payor and payee respectively, and what the “market” will bear, or there will be all hell to pay.

Notice the dialectic sense of yield in the concept of "bear". The “market’ – the war, can bear a yield, bear you a “profit”, but profit must yield to the unbearable or the unsustainable, or there will be all hell to pay. These pretty little syllogisms always bear a perfectly distilled universal law to me that clarify many crudely apprehended complex situations. It yields the cynic's fatalistic equanimity whilst affording something to look forward to – always a profitable position.

They will make peace, make deals - peace deals - far more utile than any that could be imposed - or they will suffer and fight on, prone to charlatans and outside malefactors of all stripes. Then America will fight vainly on until the notoriously impending breakdown of the army prompts the repatriation of the wreckage with nothing to show for all that blood and treasure, but the certainty of further expenditure of blood and treasure. A result ensuring there was plenty more hell to pay out all around.

There will surely be blowback in terms of insecure or intransigent Shia reaction to Sunni empowerment, but that's the way the dialectic goes until some fleeting equilibrium more or less obtains. Denying reality, working against the natural topography of the battlespace only works for so long, religious whackos, cretins and the insane excepted. The distribution of AMERICAN power (cash, arms, training, license, legitimacy) to the Sunnis is as fraught as relations amongst themselves and between they, the U.S. and the Shia. Toss in the Iranians. At some point, things are so fraught all around - what a great word - that something must give, something must be done differently. And done right there where the feet on the ground are the apparently irreconcilable facts on the ground.

That the usual result of accepting reality is some less than perfect pause between universal extermination and harmonious accommodation allows us to celebrate whatever native wisdom yielded a glass half full rather than a bigger dustier boneyard that day.

But I don't think there will be any lasting equilibrium prior to U.S. withdrawal. There may be self-interested hudnas that allow some semblance of security and stability. Best case, a second chance for an Iraqi political dialogue from the ground up after establishing some semblance of civil order to get the power and water back on. A basic accord regarding the mandatory suppression of AiQ and resistance to the most pernicious Iranian influence. Lasting as long as an agreed withdrawal. Some tens of thousands of U.S. troops would remain in the country in some configuration for the many years. As many possible as long as needed to foster the tipping point where inchoate locals have vested interests in preserving coalescing political structures they originally create or accede to solely in their own interests. Political structures ensuring respective security that could tolerate a U.S. withdrawal while legitimating enduring mutual political participation that would facilitate it. To achieve this bare minimum in lieu of the Crusdaer-guy’s Mesopotamian New Jerusalem will require knowledge, wisdom, patience, forbearance and zillions of consistently correct choices all around.

Or there will, in the end, be all hell to pay.

Pat, I was, am, so viscerally opposed to this war. I still feel that way. Pissed off. Personally aggrieved by incompetence in matters I really know so little of, horrified by, but not of, the slaughter that never splashes me. But I think. I think they have to stay. This has to be given this late second chance, volatile as Occupation is, until the Iraqis can at least get the lights and water on, which I think would require some measure of functioning civil society a working majority might be more loathe to trash again, or to allow others to wreck again. Indonesian or South Korean-like democratic development is the work of other generations, Inshallah. Because if it doesn’t work in this generation, the alternatives are disastrous all around. For many, many generations.

Still, if the buggers wanna burn down the country squabbling about the glass after you set 'em up, well, there's flogging a dead horse - it'll never be made to drink again. Nature, abhorring a vacuum, will unleash some new unknown, untamed creature to take its place. Maybe, we play our cards right, a nuclear fire-breathing mini-caliphate, instead of the dogs breakfast of dysfunctionality we fostered, tolerated, and dined on so well to date.

But in my heart of limbic hearts, I think we are all royally fucked, global warming, er, climate change, never mind. There’s just too many powerful humans involved in a very fraught drunken 3 dimensional chess game where none of the pieces or the board itself appear as they truly are to the other players - by defect and by design. A lotta shit is gonna fly a long way in all directions. We all live downstream of each other now, near or far. A towering tsunami over here often starts out as a little ripple way over there there, though by the same token that " we have to fight 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em over here" thing is bas. Gotta go. 43 is on, “we can draw down due to some successes’ I hear, but the first words outta his mouth were “terrorists and the enemies of democracy”. . . not encouraging.

Montag

Binh,
These obscenities are known as "Bremer Walls" after you-know-who. Bremer getting the Medal of Freedom reminds me of the old saying that behind every medal there's a disaster.

McGee,
Oh, like you weren't already thinking it. I just connected the dots for you.

chew2

Jonst & Lang,

"ONLY when the Sunni's are strong enough in all regards that a Shia dominated government accepts it MUST somehow accord the Sunni minority legitimate political, legal, social, security and economic space if the Shia are to secure any of their own, will the Sunni's "have someone to negotiate with", to mangle a metaphorical Israeli roadblock"

Or as Mao said "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun".

So the US sponsors more sectarian militia's for tactical convenience, and then later posits the hope that this will somehow eventually lead to the strategic elimination of sectarian militia's and national reconciliation?

If that is the process, then some parts of the Iraqi constitution need to be scrapped or ignored, and perhaps Iraq should disappear as a nation. Creating alternative military power centers, certainly isn't going to make a weak and divided central government any more cohesive or effective.

I have no problem with cooperating with the Sunni tribes to fight AQI. But how much more powerful must they become, before the Shia's will have to "negotiate" with them? And what will the governance of Iraq look like after we/they are done?


wsam

But, what leverage do the Sunnis possess in relation to the Shias? Soon the Sunni will be restricted to a few Baghdad neighbourhoods (where they will be basically under siege) and their tribal areas.

Once the Shia consolidate control over their areas there will be no need for them to compromise with Sunni interests. To a significant degree, they will be able to ignore them. The real unknowable is who and what bundles of interests will emerge as winners on the Shia side.

Are the Sunni going to acquire an air force, tanks? How are they going to retake Baghdad, for example? Let alone Basra. Sunni militants will be restricted to carrying out terrorist attacks and maybe conducting conventional guerrilla-type operations on the margins.

It’ll be a civil war where the Sunni side isn’t nearly strong enough to conquer the Shia and the Shia have no interest in conquering the Sunni.

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