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December 07, 2006

Thoughts On The Firestorm Over Iraq

It's artificial.

By this I mean there was no seismic change in the circumstance in Iraq. Incrementally most say it has gotten worse, but worse in a specific way: sectarian violence has increased. There has been an increase in US combat deaths, but such rises and declines in combat intensity has been largely cyclical; there may be some reason to fear that it will only get worse from here, but there is also good reason -- the whole history of the war -- to suspect it will abate. And then, later, increase in intensity again.

The sudden determination -- now the Conventional Wisdom, according to the media -- that everything has gone to hell and that we must get out immediately if not sooner is almost entirely a creation of the Democratic victory in November, and the media's consequent emboldment to say clearly and forcefully the things they've been thinking since, oh, before the war began, and since the one-day "quagmire" in the actual invasion when our troops had to stop moving due to sandstorms.

It's not real. There was no genuine "Iraqi Tet," and even to the extent there was something of an Iraqi Tet, we know something about Tet offensives: they're designed not to achieve military victories, but public opinion victories in America.

The Sunnis cannot win this war. They are greatly outnumbered. The best they can hope for is... well, to be slaughtered en masse and ethnically clensed from all Kurdish or Shi'ite strongholds. And make no mistake: That is the inevitable consequence of an American withdrawal. The odd truth of this war is that Sunnis are fighting their greatest protector, the American military, which will not permit slaughter on a mass scale, even against the Sunnis, who pretty much deserve it by this point.

With the American forces departed, the restraints come off the Shi'ites entirely. What, precisely, will all those militias do when they no longer have American patrols to dodge, or American soldiers to snipe at?

Of course the full force and fury of decades of hatred and desire for vengeance will be visited upon Sunni men, women, and children. What we are seeing as far as "sectarian violence" now is nothing compared to what will transpire when the moderating force of American troops is removed from the equation.

If you want to talk to realism -- let's talk realism. Cold-blooded, heartless, amoral utilitarian realism. Rule by men with guns is not a "lawless" situation. It's in fact the oldest, and most primitive, sort of "law" there is -- law by superior numbers and superior military might. The Sunnis cannot win this war; their plan, to the extent they have one, is to make the country so unstable that some outside force such as -- if you can believe this pipe-dream -- America itself will come to see them as the only group capable of ruling the fractured, fratricidal country of Iraq and reinstall them as masters of the country.

That, of course, will not happen. The Sunnis will never control Iraq again; the best they can hope for is the success of the American plan to create a stable, peaceful, power-sharing and federalist Iraq in which they have, yes, a disproportionate amount of power, but not the total control they once had.

That's their best option. The other option -- the one they may finally have brought to fruition -- is to have no power at all, and to be driven out of the cities into the barren (and oil-free) wastelands of the western deserts, to live out their lives in misery and privation, and to occasionally have these sad lives cut short by Shi'ite gangs raiding villages and killing them by the dozens.

It's time to use that fact to our advantage. It's time to get "realistic." And the realistic way to settle this is to announce -- couched in diplomatic language that makes it seem less vicious than it actually is -- that unless the Sunnis disarm immediately, and before the Shi'ite militas do, the US can no longer justify the cost in lives to protect the Sunnis from Shi'ite militas. Compliant Sunni areas that give up or drive out their Al Qaeda or Ba'athists terrorists will have US/coaltion garrisons to defend them, and vigorous patrolling to protect them from murder.

Areas which do not comply will be left to the tender mercies of the law of superior firepower.

That will remain, hopefully, a threat and a threat only, and we can hold out some optimism the Sunnis will come to their senses and accept the best possible outcome of this war -- a life in which they have some substantial power in the country, a good chunk of the oil revenues, and peace for themselves and their children.

But if they do not accept the terms of their defeat -- then we ought to stop attempting to disarm the Shi'ite militias, and let them do as the please.

Except for those Shi'ite militiamen who attack US forces, of course. Those should be wiped out mercilessly.

The warplan should be the opposite of that suggested by Baker. Baker claims we must stop making fighting Al Qaeda the priority, and instead seek peace. That's quite wrong. We should refocus on killing Al Qaeda and Shi'ite militiamen who attack US troops, and let peace seek itself, through the brutal methods by which peace is usually ultimately had.

The word "pacify" has a nice connotation, suggesting coddling a baby by giving it warm milk to suckle on. In historical reality, populations are "pacified" through extremely brutal, dirty, and nasty means, killed, raped, butchered, and driven out of their homelands until they ultimately lose all hope of military victory and all desire to fight.

So let the Sunnis be pacified. As the Shi'ites and Kurds may wish. The US will change its mission to hunting Al Qaeda and the like, and offer protection only for those populations willing to support it, where US troops can patrol in almost total safety from attacks by the locals.

In any area where the US is not so welcome by the locals, then they have chosen the manner by which their dispute shall be settled, and such disputes are never settled happily. One side is simply killled and brutalized so badly they're no longer capable of fighting at all.

Let that be the victory in Iraq.

That's "realism." And that's the sort of "realism" I would have greeted from the Baker report.

Kill those who attack Americans or the Iraqi government forces. But if Shi'ite militas want some payback against the Sunnis who have been murdering them for decades now -- well, sure, we'd like to see less murder and mayhem, but we're past the point of caring very much about that.

It was perfectly inevitable that the Shi'ites would ultimately start visiting their own rough justice on the Sunnis -- what did the Sunnis imagine would happen after the hundredth bombing and thousandth murder? That's how wars go. Yes, there is a cycle of violence -- until that cycle is broken. Not by treaties or diplomacy; those are incidental, formalities observed after the cycle ends.

The cycle of violence ends when so much violence is inflicted on one oppponent or both that one or both sues for peace. War ends when one or both sides can no longer stomach seeing their children killed.

That's realism.

Instead we have a lot of happy talk about getting Syria and Iran to reverse their clearly-expressed policy goals and overriding national interests in order to "help" us in Iraq.

And since we're talking about Baker's destroy-Iraq-get-Israel-free fire-sale -- we should note the incredible forebearance Israel has shown in not simply attacking the Palestinians according to the same rules of war the Palestinians show them, i.e., none. Reduce three or four large Palestinian cities to the ground, killing thousands and dispacing a hundred thousand, and you'd find "peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict" could be reached in fairly short order.

If there is a civil war, then let there be a civil war, with the US only stepping in to fight terrorists of global reach and those who specifically target Americans. If there must be a bloodbath, then let there be a bloodbath, and let the US take a more active role in rebuilding the country when enough people have been killed that those who survive are actually interested in rebuilding, and peace.

But enough of this media-confabulated rush to the exits. The American people voted the Republicans out in November, but they are not clearly in favor of losing this war. Republicans lost because they were perceived as not winning the war. If the country wanted defeat and surrender that badly, it could just as easily kept the old Republican guard in place. They were doing a fair job at it.

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posted by Ace at 06:00 PM

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