Monday, April 07, 2008

Cautious optimism presented
to Sen Foreign Relations Committee

Before Petraeus and Crocker arrive this week to face the political wrath and wrangling of our Congress, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had a media/unheralded slide thru by CFR's Dr. Stephen Biddle on April 2nd. I'm quite sure it was ignored in the media because they found it difficult to find cherry picked phrases in his analysis, "Stablizing Iraq from the Bottom Up", that are absolutes in support of their quest for withdrawal.

The above link to Biddle's paper on Iraq is a H/T to
Greg Grant at Tribal Wars. Since someone at Floppping Aces turned me on to Grant's blog, I've been visiting regularly, and taking time to read his past posts. I can tell that Grant and I have some base disagreements. But from his blog presentation, I suspect this is actually a man I could disagree with without it degenerating into venomous personal assaults. And, admirably, he does indeed place a great deal of emphasis on wanting to see our military properly equipped... a place where he and I live harmoniously.

But back to Biddle and his report to the Senate Foreign Relations Commmittee. It's a surprisingly a'political analysis. There's some calling on the carpet for the doubters of Surge success, and those who opposed and preemptively called the Surge a failure. There is also the same for those that supported the Iraq deposition of Saddam, and documented mistakes. All criticism of both sides, however, is done in retrospect, with extremely good taste.

After dancing around not hurting all the politicos' partisan feelings, we are left with an insightful analysis of not only the past years of development/failures in Iraq, but where their future might possibly lie. And what appears to be surprising Biddle the most is the unexpected "bottom up" path for Iraqis to gaining long term stability.

Biddle sees a fragile and workable peace founded on their their provincial localities and local ceasefires. To him, the weakness lies with the national central government which, if it takes too much control, can have the country fall like a house of cards.

But there is a way he sees to ceasefires exising long term... with some sort of a US or UN peacekeeping force in place. Needed at least, perhaps, until younger Iraqi's, not "scarred by the experience of sectarian bloodletting, rises to leadership age in Iraq." Again, our futures like in a youthful generation, not bombarded with ancient history of hate.

This is a 15 page statement, and is worthy of your entire read. But let's see if I can summarize his future projections... leaving his Monday morning quarterback analysis of Iraq's recent past to your own reading.

From the "Conclusions and Implications" section on pg 15 of the PDF:

Iraq’s system of local ceasefires may thus offer an opportunity to stabilize the country and avert the downside risks of failure for the region and for US interests. To realize this opportunity will not be cheap or easy. And it will not produce the kind of Iraq we had hoped for in 2003. A country stabilized via the means described above would hardly be a strong, internally unified, Jeffersonian democracy that could serve as a beacon of democracy in the region. Iraq would be a patchwork quilt of uneasy local ceasefires, with Sunni CLCs, Shiite CLCs, and Shiite militia governance adjoining one another in small, irregularly shaped districts; with most essential services provided locally by trusted co-religionists rather than by a weak central government whose functions could be limited to the distribution of oil revenue; and with a continuing need for outside peacekeepers to police the terms of the ceasefires, ensure against the resumption of mass violence, and deter interference from neighbors in a weak Iraqi state for many years to come.

So far his vision of Iraq doesn't sound much different than Pakistan, or any Muslim government seeking to find a balance and liveable peace between more modern Muslims, a thriving capitalistic economy, and those that desire Sharia law.

But if you will, allow me to interject my own main bone of contention with Biddle's entire paper. He suggests somewhat of an overall failure because Irag will not turn out to be, as he puts it, another "Germany or Japan".

Or, as he says above... "it will not produce the kind of Iraq we had hoped for in 2003."

Bush warned against this notion as far back as a Nov 2003 speech at the Nat'l Endowment for Democracy: Quoted from speech:

As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernization is not the same as Westernization. Representative governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures. They will not, and should not, look like us. Democratic nations may be constitutional monarchies, federal republics, or parliamentary systems. And working democracies always need time to develop -- as did our own. We've taken a 200-year journey toward inclusion and justice -- and this makes us patient and understanding as other nations are at different stages of this journey.

Thus the only ones who could be surprised at the Iraqis' finding a "bottom up" alternative solution more appropriate to their needs are the media... the same who assumed and propagated the popular myth that Bush was trying to "westernize" and not "democratize".

For the rest of us who had a more realistic view of a Muslim democracy, and never believed Iraq would be another Germany or Japan, it was only a matter of time.... wondering when Iraq would find it's own way to relative stability.

Now that we have the only major disagreement out of the way, more from Biddle's conclusions. He suggests that the inevitible peacekeeping force must be "international" or accepted. This is, of course, a fatal flaw in al Qaeda and al Jihad Groups' Zawahiri's eyes. Per his recent interview, his organization affords the UN no higher status than he does any western force on Arab lands. But we'll leave that as an aside for now.

There are no guarantees in Iraq. And given the costs and the risks of pursuing stability, a case can still be made for cutting our losses now and withdrawing all US forces as soon as it is logistically practical.

But none of the options are cost or risk-free in Iraq, including withdrawal. A US departure from an unstable Iraq risks an escalation in violence, the prospect of regional intervention, and a much wider war engulfing the heart of the Mideast’s oil production – any responsible proposal for troop withdrawals in Iraq must contend with their risks, which are substantial. All US options in Iraq thus remain unattractive.2 But we must choose one all the same.

Biddle is quite practical. There's no guarantees... and all choices carry risk. Duh wuh! The the following paragraph.. the last one to wrap up the conclusion, I might add, drives the reality home for a cowardly leadership in a political driven liberal Congress in election year.

And the case for cutting our losses in Iraq is weaker today than it was a year ago. The rapid spread of negotiated ceasefires and the associated decline in violence since then has improved the case for remaining in Iraq and paying the price needed to maximize our odds of stability. It will not be cheap, and it is hardly risk-free. But in exchange for these costs and risks we now have a better chance for stability – not a guarantee, but a better chance – than we have seen for a long time.

Yup... hard to cherry pick this one. And I suspect when Petraeus/Crocker come up and present the same future vision, it will be a fact that is hard to ignore.

Hard to ignore unless, of course, the media deliberately avoids the link between this report, and tomorrow's Petraeus/Crocker report.

1 comment:

Mike's America said...

You notice how the goal posts Democrats have previously erected for their Iraq policy have moved.

Sure, there were some presidential hopefuls stressing withdrawal, but many Dems have now resigned themselves to the surge's success and political reconciliation which was absent last fall and now are complaining about the cost.

Good thing no one ever brings up the $$$trillions that have been spent/wasted in the war on poverty and Democrats still complain we are stuck in that quagmire.

The only difference is, they can't blame BUSH for THAT failed policy.