Saturday, November 19, 2005

Alternative to Porter's proposed "rolling exit" of US troops from Iraq

Above all, Gareth Porter is an ingenious analyst who
makes you think and one comes to feel a sense of the
complexities of a region far better from his writing
than most others. His article: "The Third Option in
Iraq: A Responsible Exit Strategy," [MIDDLE EAST
POLICY JOURNAL, Winter 2005] screams at you, amongst
other things, why we need him so much in higher
pedagogia.

But I'm afraid that though he and I share a common
goal-- US exit from Iraq-- his rolling exit strategy I
do not think would succeed. The main reason is the
tremendous variety of starting points for suicide
bombers, despite their common end point. This variety
makes impossible some common halt to the killing in
response to any American withdrawal plan. What I, and
my Iraqi friends informing me through reports and
analysis on the spot, despair over is how easy it is
to find a willing suicide bomber, given the misery
that is life for young people in Iraq today. Once a
group has accumulated such human weapons, it is easy
to state the case of anything from that of an inane
criminal to the most exalted religious purpose with an
equal "booming" effect.

In part, I blame, the American occupation, an utter
failure over almost two years. The miserable and
maddening life in Iraq, what with a 60% unemployment,
presents young Iraqis with a rather bleak future. They
therefore cannot marry, enter a career path nor face
family, friends and neighbors with pride. The status
as just another mouth to feed in a large family barely
subsisting is enough to drive many to the despair of a
glorious end to life, literally, with as bang--
particularly when a substantial sum is left behind as
a reminder to the family to honor its departed shahid.

It seems to me a grave error to sort Iraqis as Shi'ia
or Sunni, given the tremendous amount of
intermarriage. Even worst is to sort the resisters
into nationalists and alQaeda internationalist
foreigners. This simplistic categorization misses the
plethora of interests that send out suicide bombers. A
very complex series of causes, including "Mafia-like
families" collaborate with several religiously driven
or politically motivated groups coordinated by a
logistic net of Iraqi ex-officers. Suffice it to say,
though, that when they target Americans, ALL
for that mission collaborate, as Americans are seen as
exploiters, occupiers and defilers of the honor of
Iraq. It is only when Americans cease to be the issue
that they proceed to annihilate eachother for
advantage.

If that is so, I do not see how we can expect a
uniform cessation of hostilities as we slowly
withdraw. I would expect just the opposite. The fate
faced by the Israelis on their way out of Lebanon and
Soviets leaving Afghanistan shows that the unity in
fighting leads to violent juxtapositioning for power
as the invader withdraws. The chaos we created in
March 2003 by disbanding instead of just defeating the
Iraqi Army, was perpetuated in April, indeed
encouraged, as we sat by in the face of violent
looting by the *defeated*, a unique event in war
history. The planned Ba'athist resistance gradually
came to terms with these desperate marauders, but it
never absorbed them under any formal control
structure. Operational independence is still the sin
qua non of these groupings. Given how little America
did to bring order and its destructive self-defense,
trailing behind assaults more for revenge than as
strategy, precludes American troops playing any role
in further pacifying or organizing of Iraq. Our Iraq
occupation command was an abysmal failure. And, since
half of our troops are not National Guard or
Reservists but volunteers who must like to play with
guns, their uninhibitedness with firepower was
unprecedented, according to Britsh commanders. All
this precludes our pacifying a population bent on
revenge against the brutal invader-- the very same
Americans they at first welcomed with cheers and
waves.

A sign of hope was the declaration of the Romanian
Foreign Minister at the last Security Council meeting
in Romania's capacity as President, that an appeal
would go out for a large United Nations force to
replace the Americans. With politics ever prominent in
his mind, Mr. Bush obviously is thinking of a dramatic
pull-out by the Summer of 2006, in time to influence
the Congressional election. If all we want is to pull
out without caring about the consequences, such a
replacement is adequate. However, if our goal is a
democratic Iraq, we would do better to move our troops
exclusively to seal Iraq's borders, something we
failed to do to date because of our entanglement in
the interior of the country. As an intense border
patrol force, Americans would be out of the way, yet
would serve to restrict supply of the various terror
groups. The UN could replace American civilian
officials--for the most part utter incompetents, many
steeped in scandal-- with specialists from countries
better understanding the setting and protected by a
non-American force.

Our casualty counts would immediately go down, and the
effect of our efficient sealing of the borders would
soon be felt by the UN forces controlling the interior
of Iraq as well as by the Iraqis.

Daniel E. Teodoru


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