Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Statistic and a Hope

Reading the GAO report on Iraq, I noticed in the average daily attack data on page 10 that violence would be considerably less if coalition forces were not in Iraq. Not only would the average number of daily attacks be considerably reduced, but the death and destruction wrought by American air and artillery response would cease. No doubt violence against civilians and Iraqi security forces would go up–not an unreasonable assumption–but I doubt it would be as pervasive as attacks on foreign occupiers and the consequent response.

This calculus of violence illustrates America’s dilemma in Iraq. We know Iraqis will attack foreign occupiers. We also know that they will kill each other but hope that we can craft some arrangement where they won’t kill even more of each other in the absence of American forces. So far, the violence has increased despite the presence of foreign troops. Right now, the US has no assurance that removing its troops from direct involvement in Iraq security operations won’t create even greater violence. (I use the term "direct involvement" because complete withdrawal is not really in the cards; the 14 permanent bases and massive US embassy will position US forces in a strategic region, just as US forces remained in Central Europe during the Cold War.)

I have little confidence that the continued presence of American forces in Iraqi security operations will effectively restrain and contain the violence as long as Iraqis feel threatened and dispossessed. The results of the “Surge” are clearly mixed at this point. If security has increased–not at all certain–efforts at resolving the major conflicts among Iraqis are slow and tenuous at best. Moreover, time is running out; the US doesn’t have the capability to sustain the current level of military operations in Iraq beyond next spring, without some extraordinary effort from an already stretched out military. The clock is running. Meanwhile Iraqis have their own agendas, interests and grudges that will play out with or without American forces.

Since American intervention and Iraqi political institutions have not yet demonstrated the ability to resolve conflicts without violence, other nations can and should become actively involved. Neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have great influence, not to mention direct interests, in regional security and stability. That influence, along with some financial and technical assistance, could help Iraqis to overcome their differences without more violence. Even countries well removed from the region can assist. This week’s meeting in Finland between 30 Shi’a and Sunni representatives and former adversaries from Northern Ireland and South Africa was a hopeful sign that other nations have non-military talents and resources they can offer to assist in Iraqi reconciliation. One source described the mood during the four days of discussions as guardedly positive. That’s better than more violence.

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2 Comments:

Blogger moderate said...

you and I might agree that talks between adversaries in themselves are positive...but, I fear, it makes no difference. This Iraq war has become a life form unto itself...no politician wants to touch it for fear of losing his/her place at the trough...and bush sees his historical/religious vindication in it...I will be dead before it ends.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Evil Spock said...

I still don't understand how a surge would work. They can't stamp out dissent, and sooner or later we'll have to leave the region, and I don't see how civil war won't erupt.

1:22 PM  

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