Iraq: Are We Screwed Yet?

3 Mar

Sectarian violence has been on the rise in Iraq in the past weeks, so much so that many people are wondering if the U.S. isn’t so much occupying and rebuilding a country as it is reserving front row seats for a civil war.  The big surprise, however, is that some notable conservatives are wondering the same thing.  William F. Buckley Jr. states, flat out, “It Didn’t Work” over at The National Review; George Will echoes his sentiment at the New York Post, warning that we’re “Glimpsing the Abyss”.

What about the Bush administration’s current policy?  Andrew Sullivan picks up and summarizes the crux of Stephen Biddle’s new Foreign Affairs piece, “Seeing Baghdad, Thinking Saigon,” which argues that “Iraqization,” like “Vietnamization” before it, won’t work.  So we have that going for us.

All isn’t lost—not yet anyway.  If you get tired of reading the heap of information I just laid on you, you might want to puruse the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution’s 142 page document “A Switch in Time: A New Strategy for America in Iraq”.  It’s the work of Ken Pollack and other experts who have been arguing, for some time now, that America’s current counter-insurgency strategy is flawed. 

Is the Bush Administration, or perhaps more importantly, the Pentagon, going to consider any of these policy and military strategies and retool, once again, their Iraq policy?  Not likely.  We seem to be stuck in our makeshift counter-insurgency strategy (“clear, hold, and build”), which gets the fundmentals right but the execution and details wrong (a fitting analogy for much Bush administration policy).  We attack the insurgents until they’re rooted out of a particular locale (mostly the Sunni Triangle) while ignoring central and southeren Iraq.  And we aren’t even deploying enough troops to “hold” or “build” in the Sunni Triangle.  All of this accoring to Ken Pollack’s (subscription only) article “The Right Way: Seven Steps Toward a Last Chance in Iraq” in this month’s issue of The Atlantic.

So, a recap: exploding mosque domes, increasing sectarian violence—led in part by bands of  U.S. trained sectarian militias, police, and security forces—conservatives calling Iraq a failure, and liberals (well, the hawkish but well meaning New Republic) calling for us to stay, lest Iraq decend into real civil war.  I tend to agree with the latter assement, that it’s not too late to salvage the reconstruction efforts and make the lives of the Iraqi people something less than days ridden with the anxiety of impending bodily harm. That would be great.  What does everyone else think? 

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