Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Would You Like Falafel With That?

Elections in Afghanistan concluded last month; elections will be held in Palestine tomorrow (Jan. 7th); and elections are scheduled for Iraq on Jan. 30th... what a politically fascinating time it is for the Arab world! And yet they all have a few things in common. They all have a U.S. backed candidate (Karzai, Abbas, Allawi) on the menu who is already in power. There is no suspense regarding who will win. And all three victors will face an uphill battle against military insurgencies in their nations. And so the question on everybody's mind is: will these elections make any difference?

I don't hold out much hope for the Palestian elections because of the tremendous power and popular support that Hamas and other murderous groups have who will continue to kill regardless of any peace overtures the elected leader may make. And Karzai is largely on his own, holed up in Kabul, while the vast rural areas of his nation turn into a Columbia-style narco-state before his very eyes. But believe it or not, I have hope for the Iraqi elections. Let me explain.

I am wondering if one aspect of the conventional wisdom regarding the deployment of US troops in Iraq may be wrong. Even the Democrats have been reluctant to set a firm date for withdrawal--but I wonder if might not be precisely what we need to do! If we made a firm committment to exit in, say, 12 months, that would give us time to train Iraqi forces while making it 100% clear that we were going to leave.

Remember: the only reason the Iraqi insurgency is having any success is that the Iraqi people support it--because they want us to go away. Perhaps the insurgency would lose some of its popular support if the people had a good reason to believe that no such violence was necessary to get us to leave. Furthermore, it would make them start paying more attention to the Iraqi government, which many of them (rightly, I suspect) believe isn't really calling the shots yet.

I respect Allawi and I think he knows how to negotiate with the relgious and military factions. The key is for the elections to feel reasonably legitimate to the people of Iraq. A landslide victory for Allawi would make questions of the exact balance of Shia/Sunni voters irrelevant. Although today's New York Times suggests that the whole-nation (no districts) voting plan for the parliament may "distort" the legislature by failing to elect "enough" Sunnis, since they live in areas where there is a lot of violence that may dissuade them from voting... consider the alternative.

Wouldn't a person elected from a such a district alone appear even more illegitimate? And I admit I sort of feel that since the Sunnis are the ones supporting the terrorists more than the other groups, it's kinda their own fault that there is violence in their own towns. If they wanted to stop it, they could. The insurgency could not be alive without a network of supporters and tacit support from their communities.

I admit it may be naive, but I think it is vital that the occur ASAP (on schedule) regardless of the violence, because a legitimate Iraqi goverment may be the only thing that can stop it. Yes, once we leave, maybe a civil war will break out between the factions--who can say? But that will be a different matter, not related to the current insurgency and foreign terrorist activities.


US West said...

I am not so optimistic about Iraq. The elections Jan 30th are part of a U.S. exit plan. But don't think that just because there are elections and the US promises to leave after 12 months that this will quell the violence. My opinion may well be colored by my mixed experiences working with Arabs (who are a very diverse group of people so generalizations, I realize, may not be fair). My experience shows that nothing will make them happy. If they have elections and civil war flares, that will be the fault of the U.S. If we don't have elections, hoping to quell the violence before hand, then we are occupiers who break promises. If we hold elections and suddenly all the violence stops (which it won't), then we will be accused of cultural imperialism by forcing our Western dominated notions of globalization.

There is a great deal of commentary in the region about the need for democratic reform. However, the commentators that I have read can’t seem to agree what an “Arab-style democratic system would look like. Some try to point out that Islam has many democratic elements that could be used in the creation of an Arab democracy. Others whole heartily refuse this, saying that they need a more secular state. However, Islam and politics are so tightly wound in the Arab world, that you can’t really create a secular state. And often, the only forum for expression in the Arab world is the Mosque. So . . .

I hear younger, more educated Arabs say that the problem in the Arab world is that people bitch, but don't do anything to change the status quo. (I encourage you all to rent Control Room on DVD). The Arabs, they say, make excuses. It is always easier to blame someone else rather than take responsibility for yourself. I think these younger people make a valid point.

If we pursued our policy in Iraq thinking that they would be grateful to us forever, thus hand over their oil while waving little American flags, we were horribly deluded. But we all agree that the neo-cons had more practical reasons for their actions. Maybe it is worth revisiting this to get some perspective as we head into the next stage in Iraq.
1) the neo-cons got tired of being played by Saddam, who was gaining admiration from the Arab street by successfully challenging the U.S.
2) there was a broader policy shift toward democratization as a means of securing much needed oil supplies. We hoped success there would cause a domino effect. Iraq was a perfect candidate for this. It had no real means of retaliation; we had been in a low grade conflict with Iraq since the Gulf War, bombing them almost daily, flying sorties, etc.; there was a nasty dictator causing great suffering. yada! yada! yada!
3) The sanctions regime was coming to an end. Hans Blix was going to confirm that Saddam had no WMD and the U.S. would loose what little control it had over Iraq. So we were faced with two choices. 1) end the sanctions and work with the Europeans to keep Saddam in a box . This would never fly with the neo-cons who saw the Europeans as too interested in tying up their long-frozen oil contracts to think practically or 2) Build a flimsy, but reasonable enough case to justify attack. We know what they chose.

The policy failed in that the Arab street, while happy to see Saddam gone, is unhappy because we have left instability in the heart of the region. At least Saddam was a controlling force. We have also radicalized Iraqis, although religious frictions were always present Iraq. And to me, one of the saddest things is that we have negatively impacted our relations with Iran, which were starting to progress ever so slowly. I absolutely agree with those who say we would have had a better time of it had we removed Saddam in 1991. There was less fundamentalist radicalization and greater hope in Iraq. There was still infrastructure for us to work with, which 10 years of sanctions destroyed.

What really needs to happen if we want to improve our standing in the region is to get out of Iraq and to suppress Israel (our 51st state). And the best way to play that is to pull the money- real money, not just token sums. As for the rest, I think we should get the hell out. Be an honest broker,solve the Palestinian issue, and then you solve half your other problems in the region.

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest writes "My experience shows that nothing will make them happy [with the U.S.]" I think you're right. That's why we need to get the hell out of Iraq and (I agree with you) Palestine.

Raised By Republicans said...

I've always thought that we got ourselves stuck in a "tar baby" when we invaded Iraq. We need to get out ASAP but there is no obviously good way to do it. That's why we never should have invaded in the first place. : - (

Koala Boy said...

I would question whether the US really wants to be out of Iraq. Maybe the citizens may, but the leadership seem intent on firstly ensuring that "the fight" is not on home soil, and secondly that they have driven a wedge into the centre of the arab region causing instability for years to come. By-products like access to oil are a bonus. Leaving would be secondary.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The administration forgets one particular facet of US-Iraqi relations. Beginning with the killing of nearly 100,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians in the Gulf War of 1991, the US bombed some Iraqi installation or shot at some Iraqi plane nearly every week from 1991-2003. This is not an exaggeration. Iraqis died regularly from US attacks, most of them peasant conscripts, not Ba'athist diehards. In 1998, thousands again died in the poorly named Operation Desert Fox. And, of course, US-sponsored sanctions have caused much misery in Iraq (at least the Iraqis believe they have). Liberating Iraq in 2003 rhymnes with Liberating Germany in 1945.

US West said...

I was talking to some friends this evening and apparently there are some reports coming out that the administration is planning on doing to the Middle East what it did to Latin America. The plan is to get Kurds and Shias together and manipulate them into battling Sunnis- basically inciting civil war in Iraq, but doing so quietly (remember Nicaragua?). The idea is that we will eventually do the same thing to Syria by inciting unrest against the Baathists.

Have the Citizens heard anything about this?

Raised By Republicans said...

I think I have heard stuff like that from neo-cons. They point to the fall of the Sandinistas and the invasion of Panama as roaring successes for their approach.

Of course they are missing important factors. A big reason the Sandinistas fell was related to the steep decilne of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. While they did have local support, in a real sense Communists in Central America were dependent upon external powers for their success. The same cannot really be said of Islamic radicalism in the Middle East.