Adventus

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Frying pan? Fire?

Which to choose, O, which to choose?

The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.

This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.

US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.
It's okay, though. We won't be needing this plan, or need to worry about this scenario. President Bush, in an interview with Juan Williams (that was truly a new low for NPR, which can now officially consider itself a wholly owned subsidiary of FoxNews) answered the only intelligent question of the interview this way:


my name is Specialist Ryan Schmidt (sp) from Forest Lake, Minnesota, and my question for you, Mr. President, is what if your plan for a troop surge to Baghdad does not work?" What do you think?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I would say to Ryan, I put it in place on the advice of a lot of smart people, particularly the military people who think it will work, and let us go into this aspect of the Iraqi strategy feeling it will work. But I will also assure Ryan that we're constantly adjusting to conditions on the ground.
In translation: CLAP LOUDER!!!

No surprise, Mr. Williams followed with this:


MR. WILLIAMS: Let's talk about Iran for a second, Mr. President.
I mean, after a blitheringly bizarre statement like that, what could be a more natural follow up?

It isn't just Dick Cheney, in other words, who is totally incoherent on the subject of American foreign policy. But don't take my word for it:

MR. WILLIAMS: Well, another question about Vice President Cheney – he said last week that – here I'm quoting – "we've encountered enormous successes and we continue to have enormous successes in Iraq." Two weeks ago you said, quote, "there hadn't been enough success in Iraq." So it sounds like there's a conflicting message there.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, I don't think so. I think that the vice president is a person reflecting a half-glass-full mentality, and that is he's been able to look at – as have I, and I hope other Americans have – the fact that the tyrant was removed, 12 million people voted, there is an Iraqi constitution in place that is a model for – and unique for the Middle East.

I will tell you, 2005 was a great year for freedom, and then the enemy took a good look and said, what do we need to do to stop the advance of freedom, and 2006 was a tough year. And I have said that the progress is not good enough. In other words, people have asked me about whether or not I approve of the situation in Iraq and my answer is no. We can do better, but it's going to require an Iraqi government that does several things. One is provide security for its people, and therefore it's in our interest to train with them, to embed with them, and to fight alongside them for a period of time until Baghdad is secure. Two, they've got to reconcile.

In other words, they've got to make it clear to the 12 million people that made a conscious decision to vote and say, we want a unity government, to reach out to disparate elements. They've got to make sure that oil revenue, for example, is available to all of the people and not just a faction that may happen to be in power. They've got to make sure that those who were involved with the Saddam government in the past, so long as they weren't killers or terrorists, have a chance, for example, to be reinstated as school teachers.
And no, that's not the worst of it. This is:


MR. WILLIAMS: All right. You know, people are praying for you; people – the American people want to be with you, Mr. President, but you just spoke about the polls and they indicate the public – and you know about what's going up on Capitol Hill with the Congress, some in the military. Even many Iraqis, according to the polls, don't like the idea of sending more troops into Iraq. So I wonder if you could give us something to go on, give us something – say, you know, this is a reason to get behind the president right now.
At this point, Williams might as well draw a paycheck from the GOP or the White House. The opening predicate of that question is so revolting that even as an ordained minister, I'd never think to ask it. So let's get back to the cheery optimism in the Brookings Institution report:


The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.

It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month.

Everywhere looms the shadow of Iran. In a "war game" testing US options, the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution found that, as the descent into civil war gathered pace, confrontation between the US and Iran intensified, and Washington's leverage on Tehran diminished. Civil war in Iraq would turn Iran into "the unambiguous adversary" of the US.

Indeed, everything indicates that that is already happening. The study appeared on the same day as the Iranian ambassador in Iraq told The New York Times that Tehran intended to expand its influence in Iraq. US commanders now claim that thousands of Iranian advisers are arming and training Shia militias.

Nonetheless, the Brookings report urges the creation of a regional group to help contain a civil war. That would see exactly the contacts with Iran and Syria that the Bush administration steadfastly refuses. An alternative in the report would be "red lines" which, if crossed by Tehran, could lead to a military attack by the US on Iran.


Yeah, because everyone knows, when violence doesn't work, more violence is precisely what's called for.

Maybe we still haven't let go of the stereotypes of Muslims left over from the Crusades. Or maybe this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a belligerent whimper.

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