U.S. Foreign Policy Lumbers, Hobbles and Bleeds Into New Year
Thoughts on a “regional conflagration” in Iraq. Also, Israel in the spotlight
Your foreign policy forecast for 2007: Iraq will be partly cloudy with a high chance of scattered shrapnel, and heavy sectarian bloodshed expected to the north, south, east and west of Baghdad.
Earlier this month, the nation was abuzz about the findings of the Iraq Study Group (AKA the Baker-Hamilton Commission). Now people have largely quieted down for the holiday season and are waiting while President Bush takes months to figure out what Iraq strategy to use for the rest of his tenure. Meanwhile, simmering civil war is filling the power vacuum we created in Iraq, and we just passed the grim milestone of losing more Americans in Iraq than in the 9/11 attacks.
In case anyone is wondering, here’s my take.
The Baker-Hamilton report basically says this: “the war thingy in Iraq is a massive debacle. The best we can hope for now is achieving some modicum of stability and prevent a ‘regional conflagration’ engulfing the whole Mideast. We’re not sure how to achieve that or if we can even affect the outcome anymore, but we recommend removing combat brigades and focusing more troops, more intensively on training the Iraqi military.”
Iraq is a foreign policy disaster of unprecedented proportions.
The Iraq Study Group also put forth some ideas on the Israeli peace issue that had Jewish bloggers on edge. Former Secretary Baker is suggesting a peace deal in Iraq be linked to a “grand bargain” that gives Palestinians a state and gives the Golan Heights to Syria.
Let’s go deeper and look at the machinations behind all this. When I browsed the Arab blogosphere a few months ago, I saw a Lebanese dude venting that when the U.S. went to war with Iraq in 1991, in return for cooperation in the war, (then Secretary of State) Baker gave Syria the green light to occupy Lebanon. When Syria didn’t prove helpful in the 2003 war in Iraq, that tacit approval for controlling Lebanon expired, and the Syrian puppet regime was overthrown. Arab bloggers saw the hand of the CIA, etc. all over it (and I have no reason to doubt them). I think we’re seeing Baker do the same exact thing here (remember that past actions are indicative of future results). In return for cooperation in the Iraq war, Baker is offering Syria the Golan (and Lebanon?)
I haven’t blogged about “an existential threat” to Israel though, because I think this stuff is just maneuvering and something Israel will never let happen. Israel has the most advanced military in the region and won’t allow something unless they have agreed to all the specifics. My dream would be some sort of peace deal that gives Syrians access to the Golan while at the same time a deal is made to ensure Israeli security, and Israelis and Syrians would be hugging and making smores around a campfire, though I doubt that will happen. And despite the panicking, I doubt the Israelis will ever agree to something that’ll mean their own demise either. We’re not talking about stupid people here.
That old guys in smoky back rooms are divvying up land to different powers without consulting the people who live on that land, acting like Imperialist bastards, I find ABHORRENT. And I think most people in the Middle East find this kind of “return of colonial deal-making” distasteful at best and worthy of insurrection at worst.
We have no good options here. Shutting out the Ba’ath party (much of the Sunnis) from the power structure means further revolt by the Sunni tribes. And letting Baathists back into the power structure means further revolt by the Shias and Kurds.
I think these plans put forth by the Iraq Study Group, and the plans floated by Bush, by McCain, and all sides, are very lame, and would have only helped had they implemented them in 2004. This thing has gone so far, is so beyond out of control, and these mindless politicos are at least 2 years behind.
Bush and McCain’s plan for 20,000 troops? Iraq Study Group’s plan for more training / less combat? I’m like “please.” The Right-wing is labeling Baker and Hamilton “surrender monkeys,” but the report doesn’t offer anything as decisive as surrender, nor a sweeping plan that would actually mean victory.
This is SO beyond small adjustments. You would need a gigantic change like 400,000 additional troops, or a huge multi-national peacekeeping force like some Arab monarchs have suggested, or to pull the hell out, and even these huge changes would be unlikely to put out a wildfire the size of Iraq.
These guys are disconnected from reality.
Does anyone actually expect the same Bush regime that the Iraq Study Group revealed has staffed our 1,000-man embassy in Baghdad with only 6 Arabic-speakers, to be able to right this ship, that ran aground into civil war and capsized years ago? How do we win a civil war? Do we pick sides?
Saudi Arabia and Jordan are openly stating they’ll intervene and arm Sunnis to kill Shias if the U.S. pulls out, while Iran is arming the Shias.
Iraq may become the main front in a world war between Sunnis and Shias, a battle against Persian ambitions along the sectarian faultlines in Iraq. That’s what the Baker-Hamilton report meant by fears of a “regional conflagration” engulfing the whole Mideast. And it’s bad news. Very bad.
In 2007 you’ll see this emerge, and you’ll see the U.S. increasingly blame the Iraqis for what’s happened since WE dismantled the indigenous regime and dissolved the stable water, nutrition, electricity and security they had and turned the Sunni-Shia political food chain upside down. We committed a GRAAAAAVE error. DAMN this world is messed up.
I’ll continue blogging about it here in 2007. I’ve got lots of time to ponder these difficult issues.