Confirming the Destruction of Iraq

How do you confirm you’ve really destroyed a country? Make sure the education system is shattered. This is especially effective in a country like Iraq that had the best university system in the Middle East / Southwest Asia.

“Medics, pharmacists, biologists and dentists are desperately seeking training in hospitals because what they have learnt so far does not give them enough confidence to treat patients. There is a really huge difference between now and the times of Saddam Hussein when medical graduates left college with the competence to treat any patient,” he said.

“Children’s capacity for learning has been reduced and the main reason for this is the effect the violence has had on their minds and this might continue to affect them for years to come,” she added.

“I remember when I entered college and students were graduating with detailed knowledge, and leaving direct to the global job market, but unfortunately today I and my colleagues find ourselves graduating knowing that , with our lack of experience, no one would employ us,” said Salman Rafi, a sixth year student at Mustansiriyah University’s Medical College.

16 Replies to “Confirming the Destruction of Iraq”

  1. This has much to do with the fact that most of Iraq’s professional class has emigrated to other countries running away from the violence . It has also been one of the main components of the insurgent’s strategy (particularly al Qaeda in Iraq), because these were by far the most moderating elements in society and the one’s who could kick start economic connectivity.

  2. No Dan. I’m talking about those Iraqi professionals who were stifled for so long under Hussein’s dictatorship and who were professionals (i.e. teachers, professors, doctors, etc.). These people were essential to the future viability of any Iraqi state, that is one of the main reasons AQI and other insurgents (sunni and shiite) targeted them and forced them into exile.

  3. Dan, I agree with NYKINDC. It seems your impression is the education system in Iraq furthered the dominance of the party like DPRK or someother totalarian regime based on brainwashing or hefty co-option. That was simply not the case in Iraq, a country very much connected (pre-sanctions) with the west, highly educated, a middle class, a real sense of national (Iraqi) identity. The leadership was based on nepotism and fear not “divine” leadership promulgated through education.

  4. Nykrindc,Saddamism without Saddam would have been a disasterous end to the Iraq War. Since 1945, the “educated class” of Iraq had run that state into the ground, as they similarly ran nearly every Arab state into the ground. The Iraq War is not about maintaing the status quo but destroying it forever.
    MR,
    Saying that the former overclass of Iraq had an “Iraqi identity” is like saying that the Afrinaers had an “African” identity. It’s easy to identify with your victims when it gives you legitimacy to victimize them.

  5. That’s the source of our disagreement Dan. I just don’t believe that the evidence supports your view. The majority of the bureaucrats who worked in the government, the education system and who were the backbone of the economy in Iraq, were not beholden to Saddam. They were in many cases, as much victims of his as the rest of the population. Remember, before the US decided to topple Hussein, his own people (military men and professionals) tried to overthrow him. They failed, because at the last minute, we got cold feet and decided not to support the move and Hussein’s intelligence service was pretty good at keeping people under its thumb.The problem I see with your view, is that you paint all Sunnis in Iraq with the same brush (i.e. Saddamists, Baathists), when that is not the case.

  6. “The majority of the bureaucrats who worked in the government, the education system and who were the backbone of the economy in Iraq, were not beholden to Saddam.”True, and this does not mattermuch.
    Saddam’s regime was just the latest in a string of Sunni Arab regimes that each left Iraq worse than it found it. Certainly we could imagine that miraculously the Bush Administration could change this pattern, but I think that’s wishful thinking.
    History presented the choice between a further slow descent and a restart. We’re in the restart.
    “before the US decided to topple Hussein, his own people (military men and professionals) tried to overthrow him”
    Indeed. The scam they had going — oppressing the majority of Iraqis, whoring the country’s wealth, &c — was a good one. The only problem for lower-downs is that they weren’t the higher-ups.
    “The problem I see with your view, is that you paint all Sunnis in Iraq with the same brush (i.e. Saddamists, Baathists), when that is not the case.”
    The destruction forever of Saddamism and Baathism as ideologies with a chance of gaining real power in Iraq is definitely a plus of what’s going on,. We ended the pattern of minority rule in Iraq forever — we changed the entire regime, not just this or that government. We did in front of the world, and we demonstrated that while our victory is partial, their defeat is total.
    But that’s just a side-benefit. The real purpose is the shock and humiliation — the feedback that comes from powerless — that we gave to the entire Sunni Arab world. This is beyond revenge or justice.

  7. Saddam’s regime was just the latest in a string of Sunni Arab regimes that each left Iraq worse than it found it. Certainly we could imagine that miraculously the Bush Administration could change this pattern, but I think that’s wishful thinking.History presented the choice between a further slow descent and a restart. We’re in the restart.
    i don’t disagree with your point on the regime. I never argued that Bush and Co would change the pattern either. Simply, that we could have made our job a bit easier. we humiliated Sunnis by toppling Hussein (not so much Iraqi sunnis who likely wanted him gone) but Sunnis outside Iraq who still supported him. We showed them that he was weak and that his power was finite.
    What would have made even more of an impact than that would have been to be able to demonstrate how an Arab society without a dictator at the helm would have been able over time to prosper. Instead, by totally alienating the Sunnis within Iraq, we strengthened the insurgency, particularly among the soldiers and tribes who saw no future for themselves without any political representation. This came after AQI targeted and forced most bureaucrats and professionals into exile, and in some sense was a result of that. Allowing Iraq to become chaotic, actually minimized the impact of the Big Bang, and gave the regimes in the region a means to deny their people’s aspirations. That is why now, what you hear when anyone talks of reform is “look at Iraq!” Meaning, look at the chaos, violence and destruction.
    Indeed. The scam they had going — oppressing the majority of Iraqis, whoring the country’s wealth, &c — was a good one. The only problem for lower-downs is that they weren’t the higher-ups.
    That’s partially true, but there were also many Iraqis Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd who felt that the country would simply be better without Hussein and Co. because the country could prosper and connect to the global economy.
    The destruction forever of Saddamism and Baathism as ideologies with a chance of gaining real power in Iraq is definitely a plus of what’s going on,
    Yes, but we achieved the end of Baathism and Saddamism with the toppling of Hussein and his loyalists.
    We ended the pattern of minority rule in Iraq forever — we changed the entire regime, not just this or that government. We did in front of the world, and we demonstrated that while our victory is partial, their defeat is total.
    That would have come anyway. As I said, the Sunnis at first showed a willingness to continue with their jobs and move the country forward, they went to work, or tried to until AQI and the Baathists insurgency began to target them for betraying the old regime. Once Hussein was toppled we could have done much to ensure that Kurds and Shiites had a greater voice, allowing them (particularly the Shiites) to develop native leaders as opposed to exiles to lead them.
    We did in front of the world, and we demonstrated that while our victory is partial, their defeat is total.
    I don’t think the book is written on that one yet. Given the way we are going, and the administration’s insistence on continuing course, both in Iraq and Iran, it is likely that we may still pull defeat from the jaws of a partial victory. This is particularly true if the administration gets our military to the point where it can no longer be stretched, once we leave, our Big Bang is done.

  8. This is beyond revenge or justice.I agree. That is why it was important to focus more on how to make it work than on the humiliation of Sunni Arabs, many of which already resented their brethren outside of Iraq for supporting Hussein while they suffered under him.

  9. “particularly among the soldiers and tribes who saw no future for themselves without any political representation.”This is inaccurate revissionism.
    The reason Sunnis had limited political representation in first national election is that they did not vote. They chose not to participate in a democracy – they chose to deligitimize it instead. In the second election, when they did note, they received approximately the 15% of the seats that their small numbers would seem to entitle them too.
    “This came after AQI targeted and forced most bureaucrats and professionals into exile, and in some sense was a result of that.”
    The chronology seems to be reversed. The violence in Iraq was overwhelmingly Sunni-on-Shia until last summer, and very little of the violence (5%) was by foreign Islamists..
    “That is why now, what you hear when anyone talks of reform is “look at Iraq!” Meaning, look at the chaos, violence and destruction.”
    Certainly a best case sceneriow would be the establishment of a proposerous capitalist democracy in Iraq that people would flock too. There’s nothing wrong with aiming for a blue-sky scenerio, and even taking risks for it.
    Such hope relies on people acting out of love for a potential future.
    But it’s been said long ago that men will suffer very little for love, in general, but will move mountaints out of fear.
    So instead, our more realistic outcome creates a negative-example… “don’t reform? look at Iraq!”
    Hence the rise of reformists elements around the region (Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, AK in Turkey, &c). This local feedback on local regimes is what we need. Only moreso.
    “That’s partially true, but there were also many Iraqis Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd who felt that the country would simply be better without Hussein and Co. because the country could prosper and connect to the global economy.”
    True. But you’re confusing a rentier class with the general population here.
    “Yes, but we achieved the end of Baathism and Saddamism with the toppling of Hussein and his loyalists.”
    Why in the world do you think this?
    The imperial regime of Japan was maintained, even after five years of revolution-from-above, because of the predictable: the aparatus had not been destroyed by the American administration, and sooner or later a new threat comes along which makes it appear cheap to buy-off the old one.
    The Baathi and Sunni tribal terrorists — who made up the bulk of the violence until last summer — knew this well. It was reasonable to expect that if they killed enough people, there would be a clamor to appease and invite them back.
    “That would have come anyway. ”
    Again, what makes you think this?
    “As I said, the Sunnis at first showed a willingness to continue with their jobs and move the country forward, they went to work, or tried to until AQI and the Baathists insurgency began to target them for betraying the old regime.”
    First, AQI was and is a small part of the insurgency.
    Second, it’s interesting that you use “Sunnis” to refer to a largely Baath-affilirated Sunni Arab bureacratic class while you use the term “Baathists” to refer to a largely Baath-affiliated Sunni Arab insurgent class. You use these labels which makes them appear that they are so different, when the only actual difference appears to be the degree to which they directly resorted to violent resistance (as opposed to merely supported violent resistance).
    “Once Hussein was toppled we could have done much to ensure that Kurds and Shiites had a greater voice, allowing them (particularly the Shiites) to develop native leaders as opposed to exiles to lead them.”
    Which we did. In the national elections, native parties (SCIRI, Dawa, Sadr, &c) did quite well. Indeed, it is these parties that run the country.
    Criticism of “the exiles” may have been fashionable c. late 2003, but the debaathification measures and other building-blocks of the new Iraq were implemented by the indigenous democratic government.
    “once we leave, our Big Bang is done.”
    It depends how we leave, but I doubt it.
    Our presense in Iraq serves to encourage the Sunni Arab terrorists, because our military protects their infrastructure from attack by either the Iraqi government or by loyalty militias. By so violently & completely rejecting the new Iraq, the Sunni Arabs have maneuvered themselves away from simple weakness to something far more dangerous.
    “how to make it work”
    That’s simple: Give the democratic Iraqi government guns, material, and air cover. And leave.
    You want systems administration that actually works? Outsource it to the locals.

  10. Dan, it seems you’re conflating the past and the present and in the process empowering the so-called Dead-Enders. The reality is many of those who actively or supported the insurgency did so out of frustration or lack of alternatives. The regime wasn’t toppled and then magically 6 dozen or more insurgent groups appeared the day after, a point nykrindc makes.Neglecting the significant factors over the four years of occupation that empowered criminal, religious, and political groups (you may mix and match those groups of course) naturally leads to the conclusion that the situation today is organic to the population and we simply took the lid of a boiling pot. This is an all too common view. While the water was simmering, especially after Sadaam’s efforts to cloak himself in Islam since 1991, I think the evidence bears out the reality that much of what we’re seeing was created in later-half of 2003 and on.
    Moving on, your statement:
    You want systems administration that actually works? Outsource it to the locals.
    is close. If you want succesful state-building (DON’T call it nation-building… they had a nation, we’re talking infrastural capacity to govern, that’s called a state), you call it ownership by the locals.

  11. The reason Sunnis had limited political representation in first national election is that they did not vote. They chose not to participate in a democracy – they chose to deligitimize it instead. In the second election, when they did note, they received approximately the 15% of the seats that their small numbers would seem to entitle them too.You’re partially right, let me clarify. What I was referring to was not so much representation in the government following elections but rather, the real fear of being excluded because they were tagged with the Baathist party. Did they make a mistake by not participating during the first election, of course, they admitted that and that is why many sought to return to the political process. Did others choose to continue fighting? Yes. Was there overlap between the two groups? Yes. But that did not mean that we could not take steps to reintegrate those who chose politics into the process, providing further incentive for more of those who continued fighting to abandon violence and turn to politics instead. We allowed the Iraqi parliament to move to a sweeping debaathification policy that though making them feel good did little to reintegrate Sunnis into the political process and take advantage of those who sought such integration. And yes, I know that you are partially correct when you argue that most sought to participate in the political process even while continuing to support or actively participate in the violence. But that was to be expected, after all, a group has to see tangible political benefits before it renounces violence completely.
    The chronology seems to be reversed. The violence in Iraq was overwhelmingly Sunni-on-Shia until last summer, and very little of the violence (5%) was by foreign Islamists..
    What timeline are you talking about here? Initially the violence was Sunni Baathists vs. Sunni and Shiite professionals and bureaucrats, and military officers who cooperated with the occupation, that is what I am referring to. We did not protect them or the translators who took a chance with us and as such lost their support. AQI came into around that time with spectacular attacks and began to actively stoke the flames of ethnic conflict. All of this combined led to most professionals to leave Iraq for safer grounds. Most times they left all they had and became refugees in Jordan, Syria, other surrounding countries, and as far away as Europe and the US.
    Hence the rise of reformists elements around the region (Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, AK in Turkey, &c). This local feedback on local regimes is what we need. Only moreso.
    This is a misreading of the region’s recent history. Hamas’ ascendance in Palestine is directly related to the demise of both Nasrallah and Yasser Arafat. It was only then that the PA began to move in a more democratic direction and would likely have won had the old guard given way to the new more reform oriented guard instead of fighting for votes among each other, allowing for Hamas’ rise.
    The elections themselves had much more to do with the rise of the reform minded Abbas than with anything happening in Iraq.
    Same goes of the AK in Turkey. It was already in power in the run up to the Iraq war, and the battle between secularism and Islam in Turkey was already beginning. That had less to do with Iraq than with internal conditions in Turkey.
    With regard to Hezbollah in Lebanon, the whole conflict that led to the ousting of the Syrians from the country was their ill considered decision to take out Rafik Hariri. With the Syrians as a major force within Lebanon out of the picture, they and Iran turned to Hezbollah which began flexing its political muscle. When they could not get what they wanted and it seemed that they too were in danger of loosing their weapons, they sought a fight with Israel to legitimize their need to maintain the status quo. It worked, but Lebanon is worse off for it.
    True. But you’re confusing a rentier class with the general population here.
    No, I understand that, however, without Hussein and Co, they were better placed to move the country and connect it to the global economy, something they desperately wanted and for which they resented Hussein who through his stubbornness kept the country isolated.
    Why in the world do you think this?
    The imperial regime of Japan was maintained, even after five years of revolution-from-above, because of the predictable: the aparatus had not been destroyed by the American administration, and sooner or later a new threat comes along which makes it appear cheap to buy-off the old one.
    The Baathi and Sunni tribal terrorists — who made up the bulk of the violence until last summer — knew this well. It was reasonable to expect that if they killed enough people, there would be a clamor to appease and invite them back.

    You are conflating too many different groups into one. There were many Baathists who thought this, I have no doubt. But many of the other groups that developed following our botched post-war effort did not fit into this mold. Many were secular and nationalist, not Baathists in the Hussein sense. Through our actions we further pushed them to join in common with the Baathists, and Islamists, not because they had the same goals but rather because they had no alternative…or thought they had no alternative even with the rise of Sunni political parties so long as the debaathification policy continued to keep them from participating in the life of the country.
    Again, what makes you think this?
    Because, with Hussein gone and Iraq finally being able to reconnect to the global economy, it would have been subject to the same forces that push countries to reform over the long-term. That was one of the major problems that the upper echelons of society had with Hussein, that he had isolated the country for too long and it was time to reconnect to the outside world.
    First, AQI was and is a small part of the insurgency.
    Second, it’s interesting that you use “Sunnis” to refer to a largely Baath-affilirated Sunni Arab bureacratic class while you use the term “Baathists” to refer to a largely Baath-affiliated Sunni Arab insurgent class. You use these labels which makes them appear that they are so different, when the only actual difference appears to be the degree to which they directly resorted to violent resistance (as opposed to merely supported violent resistance).

    Yes, I know that AQI was (and is) a small part of the insurgency, but that does not mean that they did not target bureaucrats and professionals as these were less likely to fall into the ethno-religious cycle of violence that AQI was trying to stoke in the country.
    As for your second point, yes, I’m trying to point out that there was (and is) a distinction between the two groups and that even when they cooperated it was a marriage of convenience, much like that between the largely secular Baathists and AQI. I’ve argued before that we need to understand these divisions and take advantage of them to bring those who can be brought, into the political process while marginalizing those who are the ultimate “dead-enders,” or those who would accept nothing but the status quo ante.
    Which we did. In the national elections, native parties (SCIRI, Dawa, Sadr, &c) did quite well. Indeed, it is these parties that run the country.
    Criticism of “the exiles” may have been fashionable c. late 2003, but the debaathification measures and other building-blocks of the new Iraq were implemented by the indigenous democratic government.

    We did, but not in the correct manner. With the exception of Sadr, the other parties had many more exiles in their leadership who had no popular base within Iraq (Allawi, Maliki were all exiles). As such, they relied on each parties’ organization within the country to gain their posts and appealed directly to ethnic solidarity exacerbating already worsening tensions, which eventually exploded following the bombing of the Askariya mosque.
    It depends how we leave, but I doubt it.
    That’s my point exactly. It does depend on how we leave.
    By so violently & completely rejecting the new Iraq, the Sunni Arabs have maneuvered themselves away from simple weakness to something far more dangerous.
    Most Sunnis are trying to return to the political process. This is particularly true in Anbar and other areas where they have tried to negotiate with the US. Their asking price, give us a timetable for your withdrawal, and we’ll kill and expel al Qaeda in Iraq. They also want to have the constitution amended, a new oil law, and the dismantling of the Shiite militias. But perhaps the most important thing after a US timetable for withdrawal is participation in the political process of the country.
    That’s simple: Give the democratic Iraqi government guns, material, and air cover. And leave.
    I don’t think that is feasible. Doing so would mean that we leave Iraq in a complete mess with everyone in the region joining on one side or the other. I know that you would consider this an optimal outcome, since it would force Sunnis and Shiites to fight against one another, and push the regimes to spend so much blood and resources that they will leave themselves vulnerable to agitation from within and without (i.e. Saudi Arabia and its Shiites).
    That said, I agree with Mountain Runner that ultimately successful state-building has to be something the Iraqis do.

  12. MR,”The reality is many of those who actively or supported the insurgency did so out of frustration or lack of alternatives.”
    They did so because there appeared to be few other ways to extract their accustomed rents from Iraqis. For generations, Sunni Arab tribes operated under the assumption that they could export violence to Iraqis and import cash. The new democratic Iraq presented the terrifying possibility that this would not be an option. So they did what they had been doing, but more so.
    “The regime wasn’t toppled and then magically 6 dozen or more insurgent groups appeared the day after”
    Indeed. As long as there was hope that America, in a desire to leave quickly, would keep most of the regime intact, there was no need for violence. However, President Bush ended up being serious about the whole “democracy” thing. Hence, the violence.
    “I think the evidence bears out the reality that much of what we’re seeing was created in later-half of 2003 and on.”
    Agreed.
    “DON’T call it nation-building… they had a nation”
    No, they didn’t. They had a state. If you believe words are important, then use them precisely.
    Nykrindc,
    “Did they make a mistake by not participating during the first election, of course, they admitted that and that is why many sought to return to the political process.”
    The near unanimous boycott would appear to be something more than a “mistake” — it reflected a will of that people with a rare unanimity. The whole world saw a former elite — who gained their power their imperial scrubwork — loudly reject democracy.
    When they realized — horror of horrors — that the democracy was strong enough to withstand their abtsentions and their bombs, they concentrated on the bombs.
    “But that did not mean that we could not take steps to reintegrate those who chose politics into the process, providing further incentive for more of those who continued fighting to abandon violence and turn to politics instead.”
    Of course, but considering the near-unanimous rejection of democracy by the Sunni Arabs (quite reasonable if they could prevent it — what master would want his slaves to have a vote in the planation’s operations?) one fears that “reintegration” would essentially be a process to give militias a political wing. See, for comparison, the “reintegration” of the Confederates into the American South following reconstruction, and the immediate introduction of anti-democratic laws in the region.
    “. We allowed the Iraqi parliament to move to a sweeping debaathification policy ”
    America is not fit to be a colonizer. Better phrased as, “The Iraqi Parliament implemented a …”
    “though making them feel good”
    I agree such a law was in accordances with the wishes & desires of the democratically elected government.
    “did little to reintegrate Sunnis into the political process and take advantage of those who sought such integration”
    And also did little to empower Sunnis who wished to subvert the democracy — a fraction, considering the first election, which was quite large.
    At worst you have a trade-off.
    “And yes, I know that you are partially correct when you argue that most sought to participate in the political process even while continuing to support or actively participate in the violence.”
    Thank you for this. I like talking with you a lot, because our common ground becomes clearer the more we converse. (Not always true).
    It is important to remember that most who would be “reintegrated” supported and still support the violent rejection of democracy.
    This was precisely the plan of every toppled authoritarian regime – wait for chaos and the invitation back into power.
    “But that was to be expected, after all, a group has to see tangible political benefits before it renounces violence completely.”
    I have very little interests in a power-sharing pact between the federal government and white supremacists to avert another Oklahoma City.
    “No, I understand that, however, without Hussein and Co, they were better placed to move the country and connect it to the global economy, something they desperately wanted and for which they resented Hussein who through his stubbornness kept the country isolated.”
    If by “connect it to the global economy” you mean “increase oil exports to increase revenue,” then yes, of course. Even a Saddam earlier in his career wanted to do that.
    The problem with long-serving administrations is that they accumulate enemies. That Saddam had a lot of enemies had a lot to do with staying in power a long time, and not a lot to do with anything special about him.
    “The Baathi and Sunni tribal terrorists — who made up the bulk of the violence until last summer — knew this well. It was reasonable to expect that if they killed enough people, there would be a clamor to appease and invite them back.
    You are conflating too many different groups into one. There were many Baathists who thought this, I have no doubt. But many of the other groups that developed following our botched post-war effort did not fit into this mold. Many were secular and nationalist, not Baathists in the Hussein sense. Through our actions we further pushed them to join in common with the Baathists, and Islamists, not because they had the same goals but rather because they had no alternative…or thought they had no alternative even with the rise of Sunni political parties so long as the debaathification policy continued to keep them from participating in the life of the country.”
    I think you are misreading my analogy.
    The Imperial Japanese regime did not regain power by killing people. Indeed, they were compliant throughout — the Imperial bureaucracy assisted in rounding up war-criminals, the Imperial legislature assisted in passing the amendments to the Meiji constitution the country still theoretically lives under, etc. Rather, the old Japanese regime waited for a new enemy to pop up and for the Americans to act to “stabilize” Japan as quickly as possible. The Communists obliged, and the old regime was so successfully ushered back into power than the current PM is the grandson of a war criminal!
    Indeed, the killing policy by the Baathists was just stupid. That may have been needed if we were ever going to give Saddam’s clique another go, but the old regime would have survived much better by being quiet and waiting for the US to be spooked by the Iranians. Indeed, that our chosen exile PM (Iyad Allawi) was a former ba’athists signaled that we were anxious for that to take place.
    “Because, with Hussein gone and Iraq finally being able to reconnect to the global economy, it would have been subject to the same forces that push countries to reform over the long-term.”
    The experience of major natural-resource-producing states (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, Congo, etc) argues that such would not be the case.
    Oil allows the government to buy-off problems instead of dealing wth them, allowing them to grow.
    While there were some plans to, say, confiscate Iraq’s oil wealth outright and put it in a trust, I’m not sure those were ever politically viable.
    “With the exception of Sadr, the other parties had many more exiles in their leadership who had no popular base within Iraq (Allawi, Maliki were all exiles).”
    I think you were mistaken here. SCIRI and Dawa are and wear the most popular parties and Iraq, and were essentially indigenous organizations that relied on mosque networks. Sadr’s a more thugghish variant of the same.
    That the Iraqi political parties prefer a weak PM is not surprising, because the parties do not trust a nationalg government to solve their problems. (Not surprising considering how many outsiders desired and desire to maneuver the old regime back into power!)
    “Most Sunnis are trying to return to the political process.”
    This is as meaningful as saying “Most Sunnis are trying to get a gun.” The desire for a weapon says nothing about intentions, aims, or goals.
    “Their asking price, give us a timetable for your withdrawal, and we’ll kill and expel al Qaeda in Iraq. ”
    In other words, “Just promise you won’t enforce our end of the bargain, and we’ll punish in some collective way about 5% of those who cause you trouble.”
    “They also want to have the constitution amended”
    Exactly. It’s so unfair when a Constitutioanl Convention that you reacted to with boycotts and combs does not dissolve, but reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis.
    “a new oil law”
    How else to support those Baathi pensioniers we read sob stories about, or to fund spectactular attacks against Iraqi institutions? How else to stop a federal solution — which actually has a hope of brinign peace?
    “the dismantling of the Shiite militias”
    Because the only militias should be Sunni tribes.
    “But perhaps the most important thing after a US timetable for withdrawal is participation in the political process of the country.”
    As long as the country remains centralized, they have all the participation they can legimiately get: 15% of the vote.

  13. The near unanimous boycott would appear to be something more than a “mistake” — it reflected a will of that people with a rare unanimity. The whole world saw a former elite — who gained their power their imperial scrubwork — loudly reject democracy.When they realized — horror of horrors — that the democracy was strong enough to withstand their abtsentions and their bombs, they concentrated on the bombs.

    What I meant was that their unanimous decision to boycott the elections was a mistake. The fact that they sought to return to the democratic process, at least for those that did, represented an admission of that mistake.
    They did not concentrate on just bombs rather; many sought to get back into the political process, others did not.

    Of course, but considering the near-unanimous rejection of democracy by the Sunni Arabs (quite reasonable if they could prevent it — what master would want his slaves to have a vote in the planation’s operations?) one fears that “reintegration” would essentially be a process to give militias a political wing. See, for comparison, the “reintegration” of the Confederates into the American South following reconstruction, and the immediate introduction of anti-democratic laws in the region.

    It would not have been, we had a big say in what they could and could not do politically by virtue of the forces we had on the ground. In our own country, we essentially allowed the confederates to do what you state, that’s not what I’m arguing we should have done.

    America is not fit to be a colonizer. Better phrased as, “The Iraqi Parliament implemented a …”

    That may be, but at the time we had enough influence over them to prevent it exactly because it would have been detrimental to the long-term interests of the country, as it has proven to be.

    I agree such a law was in accordances with the wishes & desires of the democratically elected government.

    Be that as it may, it still does not make it a smart or good policy. All it did was alienate people who were trying to become part of the political process.

    And also did little to empower Sunnis who wished to subvert the democracy — a fraction, considering the first election, which was quite large. At worst you have a trade-off.

    No, having Sunnis partake in the process would have done much to quell the Sunni insurgency which at the time was considered the biggest threat to the viability of the country. This would have aided us in addressing al Qaeda much earlier by moving us in the direction that we have moved only recently under Gen. Petreaus; allying with Sunni tribes and some militias to fight against al Qaeda. This would have allowed us to undermine the AQI strategy of starting stoking the fires for civil war. Their strategy succeeded, ours failed and after Askariya, it became much more difficult to get what we wanted. So much so, that rather than the Sunni insurgency our own military recognized the Shiite militias as the greatest danger to the viability of any future Iraqi state.

    Thank you for this. I like talking with you a lot, because our common ground becomes clearer the more we converse. (Not always true).
    It is important to remember that most who would be “reintegrated” supported and still support the violent rejection of democracy.
    This was precisely the plan of every toppled authoritarian regime – wait for chaos and the invitation back into power.

    We agree on many things Dan, but we also disagree on many more. Here for example, you assert that this was their plan. This seems to be based on your view of all Sunnis as being part and parcel of the old Iraqi order. That is a point where we disagree, hence our differing perspectives.

    I have very little interests in a power-sharing pact between the federal government and white supremacists to avert another Oklahoma City.

    You are again assuming that all Sunnis (or the majority of them) wanted to impose a Sunni supremacist government over the rest of Iraq. I don’t think that you have proven this, or that there is much evidence for such an assertion. This again goes back to our differing perceptions of the Iraqi regime. To me, Hussein and the upper echelons of his government were those imbued with the Baathist ideology, most other people particularly the bureaucrats, and other professionals were by and large victims of the regime. Even here, the argument of Sunni Arab supremacy cannot be made wholly since Baathism was much more nationalist and sought to undermine ethnic and religious differences in the pursuit of a national identity.

    If by “connect it to the global economy” you mean “increase oil exports to increase revenue,” then yes, of course. Even a Saddam earlier in his career wanted to do that.

    It wasn’t only about oil; it was about modernizing the state and importing Western education and lifestyles. As Mountain Runner pointed out, “Iraq [was] a country very much connected (pre-sanctions) with the west and a highly educated, a middle class.”

    The Imperial Japanese regime did not regain power by killing people. Indeed, they were compliant throughout — the Imperial bureaucracy assisted in rounding up war-criminals, the Imperial legislature assisted in passing the amendments to the Meiji constitution the country still theoretically lives under, etc. Rather, the old Japanese regime waited for a new enemy to pop up and for the Americans to act to “stabilize” Japan as quickly as possible. The Communists obliged, and the old regime was so successfully ushered back into power than the current PM is the grandson of a war criminal!
    Indeed, the killing policy by the Baathists was just stupid. That may have been needed if we were ever going to give Saddam’s clique another go, but the old regime would have survived much better by being quiet and waiting for the US to be spooked by the Iranians. Indeed, that our chosen exile PM (Iyad Allawi) was a former ba’athists signaled that we were anxious for that to take place.

    That was probably part of their own thought process, as I noted earlier, many continued at their jobs until the debaathification was taken to extremes under Chalabi and others. Allawi tried stopping it and ameliorating the situation but failed because SCIRI and Dawa essentially took over and moved toward revenge; the easy target the bureaucracy and professional class (many of whom were also Shiite). Indeed, they were targeted by the Sunni insurgency that developed from the most radical elements of the regime, instead of moving to prevent these moderate Sunnis from moving toward the insurgency, we did just the opposite which in turn allowed the insurgency to grow from a nuisance to a viable threat to the state.

    The experience of major natural-resource-producing states (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, Congo, etc) argues that such would not be the case.Oil allows the government to buy-off problems instead of dealing wth them, allowing them to grow.

    Even so, that argument applies just as well to the current administration in power, and at the very least had we pursued a different track we would be dealing with a lot less violence.

    I think you were mistaken here. SCIRI and Dawa are and wear the most popular parties and Iraq, and were essentially indigenous organizations that relied on mosque networks. Sadr’s a more thugghish variant of the same.
    That the Iraqi political parties prefer a weak PM is not surprising, because the parties do not trust a nationalg government to solve their problems. (Not surprising considering how many outsiders desired and desire to maneuver the old regime back into power!

    I’m not talking only about the PM, but the leadership of both SCIRI and Dawa, most of which came back from exile in Iran and elsewhere following out toppling of Hussein. Their initial popularity resulted from their long opposition to Hussein, and the parties’ (note I did not say leadership) somewhat effective social service network. Their popularity increased after, not because they had a base but because they appealed to ethnic and religious solidarity; an appeal many found compelling given the violence tearing the country apart. What I was arguing was that we should have prevented these exiles, and Allawi, and Chalabi from coming back to allow for native born leaders. That does not mean that Dawa or SCIRI would not have been viable, but rather that the leadership would have been less influenced by ethnicity early on, and more by nationalist appeal. Note how Sadr started out as a nationalist, and only later exalted ethnic indentity.

    This is as meaningful as saying “Most Sunnis are trying to get a gun.” The desire for a weapon says nothing about intentions, aims, or goals.

    Of course when you separate the sentence from the examples I provided which sought to give examples that spoke to their intentions, aims and goals.

    In other words, “Just promise you won’t enforce our end of the bargain, and we’ll punish in some collective way about 5% of those who cause you trouble.”

    No. From what has been reported, our withdrawal would be contingent upon Sunnis moving against al Qaeda and we would only fully leave when they could prove that as a force it was destroyed. The caveat to that would be, if they are allowed to return, we return as well.

    Exactly. It’s so unfair when a Constitutioanl Convention that you reacted to with boycotts and combs does not dissolve, but reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis.

    The constitution has to be amended. Shiites and Kurds agree on that, Sunnis just want a guarantee that it will actually be amended.

    How else to support those Baathi pensioniers we read sob stories about, or to fund spectactular attacks against Iraqi institutions? How else to stop a federal solution — which actually has a hope of brinign peace?

    No. It’s about giving them a stake in the new system. That is the deal we and the Iraqis have pushed for. The details, like in anything, are what continue to keep it on hold. But everyone agrees that would go a long way to reducing the appeal of the insurgency.

    Because the only militias should be Sunni tribes.

    No. The reason is because the Shiite militias after AQI bombed the Askariya mosque, have targeted mostly Sunni civilians and have become so dangerous that they threaten the viability of any possible Iraqi state. It’s one of the primary reasons why many Sunni insurgents have called for a truce with U.S. forces, so that they can focus on defending and fighting against the Shiite militias who many times use American forces to advance their own aims which are mostly detrimental to Iraq and Iraqis.

    As long as the country remains centralized, they have all the participation they can legimiately get: 15% of the vote.

    It’s more than just participation as it relates to the central government. It also has to do with having their own Sunni police forces and army units since it has become increasingly evident that the national forces have by and large been infiltrated by the Shiite militias who rather than provide security for Sunni civilians are directly responsible for the violence against them.

  14. Nykrindc,What I meant was that their unanimous decision to boycott the elections was a mistake. The fact that they sought to return to the democratic process, at least for those that did, represented an admission of that mistake.
    I understand your meaning. It’s clear the unanimous boycott was a mistake a strategic mistake, and that the current paritcipation is an attempt to leverage power through democratic means. However, we must be clear that merely using a democratic channel for power does not mean that one supports democracy. For instance:
    They did not concentrate on just bombs rather; many sought to get back into the political process, others did not.
    Indeed. A good comparison may be made between the armed and political wings of the PIRA — two complementary methods to power.
    In our own country, we essentially allowed the confederates to do what you state, that’s not what I’m arguing we should have done.
    Indeed. However, a partial victory is better than a partial defeat. Allowing the 85% non-Sunni-Arab part of Iraq to integrate with the world is a partial victory. Going back on the Big Bang by “stabilizing” the country with a tinkered version of the old regime is a partial defeat.
    All it did was alienate people who were trying to become part of the political process.
    Too simplistic, I think. Among other effects, it integrated people who were fearful of a political process dominated by Sunni Arabs and prevented counterrevolutionaries from holding important political office.

    No, having Sunnis partake in the process would have done much to quell the Sunni insurgency which at the time was considered the biggest threat to the viability of the country. This would have aided us in addressing al Qaeda much earlier by moving us in the direction that we have moved only recently under Gen. Petreaus; allying with Sunni tribes and some militias to fight against al Qaeda.

    al Qaeda and Islamism generally are feedback from the ghastly systems that pervade the Sunni portions of the Gap. They are symptoms of a disease — the vermin of a swamp — rather than the disease or the swamp itself.
    Cynically allying with the old powers-that-be to dampen feedback is hardly a new strategy: indeed, it accurately reflects decades of practice by Saddam, Asad, Mubarek, the Saudis, etc.
    Certainly, we should kill Qaedists. The Shia are doing this quite well. However, maintaining a bad system in order to prevent bad feedback is a backwards strategy.
    This would have allowed us to undermine the AQI strategy of starting stoking the fires for civil war. Their strategy succeeded, ours failed and after Askariya, it became much more difficult to get what we wanted.
    The Golden Mosque was a turning point in Iraq. It was the moment where the necessity of the Shia militias became obvious, and where American inability to defend Iraqis from Sunni terrorists become painfully clear.
    So much so, that rather than the Sunni insurgency our own military recognized the Shiite militias as the greatest danger to the viability of any future Iraqi state.
    After last summer, the correlation-of-forces turned decisvely against the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. All sides see that, no matter who wins, they lose. Therefore, it’s not surprising that we see them as a political piece to be played rather than as a former regime that can once again grasp power.
    We agree on many things Dan, but we also disagree on many more. Here for example, you assert that this was their plan. This seems to be based on your view of all Sunnis as being part and parcel of the old Iraqi order. That is a point where we disagree, hence our differing perspectives.
    We seem to disagree at heart over one thing: the nature of the altruism of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs.
    If one assumes that they will give their (and their families’) blood & treasure for the good of an Iraqi state, then your argument is more reasonable. Much of what you’ve written (they want to “return to work,” etc.) implies that nationalistic intertia is their central motivation.
    If one assumes that the Iraqi Sunni Arabs will protect their (and their families) blood and treasure from other factions in Iraq, then my argument is more reasonable. Much of what I’ve written (that they wish to maintain their privileges, etc.) implies that in-group cooperation is their central motivation.
    You are again assuming that all Sunnis (or the majority of them) wanted to impose a Sunni supremacist government over the rest of Iraq.
    In other words, they wish to keep what they had for all their lives until we intruded. (Or, at least, reap the material benefits of such a supremacy.) This is a natural human motivation, well backed up by history and psychology. Machiavelli wrote of this (men will sooner forgive the murder of their father than the theft of their inheritance, &c), and in the laboratory researchers into prospect theory constantly confirm this.
    Even here, the argument of Sunni Arab supremacy cannot be made wholly since Baathism was much more nationalist and sought to undermine ethnic and religious differences in the pursuit of a national identity.
    As an ideology, Baathism is a form of confession-neutral Arab National Socialism. Like European fascism before it, it mostly ignores the traditional world in favor of racial solidarity.
    However, as practiced, Baathism ends up being a support mechanism for those traditionally well-educated minoroties that first embraced it. In Iraq it serves the Sunni Arab minority, while in Syria it serves the Alawite minotiry.
    Maintaining that Saddam was a true believer in Baathism is like attempting to analyze Stalin’s foreign policy through the lens of international class struggle.
    It wasn’t only about oil; it was about modernizing the state and importing Western education and lifestyles. As Mountain Runner pointed out, “Iraq [was] a country very much connected (pre-sanctions) with the west and a highly educated, a middle class.”
    Indeed — the Arab middle east has been in decline since 1945, and the farther back in time to go to then the better and more connected life was. Antimaterialism has not been the problem of the middle east (few Arab tyrants have opposed wealth & modernism).
    Indeed, they were targeted by the Sunni insurgency that developed from the most radical elements of the regime, instead of moving to prevent these moderate Sunnis from moving toward the insurgency, we did just the opposite which in turn allowed the insurgency to grow from a nuisance to a viable threat to the state.
    You’ve made a similar point elsewhere — it amounts to saying that because the radicals on the other side are also radical, radicalism is bad.
    Of course not. The point of the war was radical change. That al Qaeda in Iraq and the United States both bitterly oppose the old regimes does not make one right and the other wrong — or one merely the tool to each other. al Qaeda and America both act to destabilize the region, the main difference being the prefered replacement. (Probably & hopefully what comes next will be a disappointment to both — regimes modeled along the Muslim Brothers in Syria and Egypt. But I disgress..)
    Even so, that argument [that oil wealth does not bring true development] applies just as well to the current administration in power,
    I brought it up because you mentioned that “with Hussein gone and Iraq finally being able to reconnect to the global economy, it would have been subject to the same forces that push countries to reform over the long-term.” My comment attempted to negate your point. Your latest reply upholds my comment and negates your original point.
    Their [SCIRI, Dawa, Sadr] initial popularity resulted from their long opposition to Hussein, and the parties’ (note I did not say leadership) somewhat effective social service network.
    So far, I agree. The most popular Iraqi political parties became popualr because of their political views and community services.
    heir popularity increased after, not because they had a base but because they appealed to ethnic and religious solidarity
    Further, they gained power by opposing the articial state and supporting the liberation of their countrymen from the possibility of oppression by the old regime. Again, I agree with your description.
    What I was arguing was that we should have prevented these exiles, and Allawi, and Chalabi from coming back to allow for native born leaders.
    I realize that moral repugnacne is not a logical argument — but is it not morally repugnant to make someone a persona non grata because Saddam exiled him?
    More directly, the flow of exiles back into Iraq had a predictable effect: increasing the social capital of Iraq. Exiles came back with unifying visions and political skill. With this they were able to offer their services. Some (Allawi, Chalabi) were rejected by the Iraqi people. Others, like the SCIRI and Dawa networks, were embraced.
    This is how democratization should work. The repatriation of the regime’s old enemies and the popular selection of new leadership.
    No. From what has been reported, our withdrawal would be contingent upon Sunnis moving against al Qaeda and we would only fully leave when they could prove that as a force it was destroyed. The caveat to that would be, if they are allowed to return, we return as well.
    This strikes me as politically naive. Change is hard — leaving Anbar makes it much, much harder to come back than merely an internal repositioning would.
    Now, I support leaving Iraq. But that support includes the realization that leaving means we do not return, at least not for some time. Making that decision without such knowledge is operating out of ignorance.
    The constitution has to be amended. Shiites and Kurds agree on that, Sunnis just want a guarantee that it will actually be amended.
    If Shia and Kurds agree on that, it would be already. Instead they talk of a summer recess and, failing that, just get nothing done. Talk is cheap. Action is expensive. Our Shia and Kurdish clients are willing to speak the words we want to hear. But they know we will leave and they know it is up to them to defend themselves against the terrorists. That’s why they have yet to authorizae the Terror Subsidzation Act of 2007 (or whatever the wealth transfer from Iraqis to Sunni Arabs will be called).
    No. It’s about giving them a stake in the new system. That is the deal we and the Iraqis have pushed for.
    They have all the stake they can ever legitimately have in a centralized system: 15% of the vote.
    The details, like in anything, are what continue to keep it on hold.
    A mass transfer of wealth from those who support democracy to those who oppose is it hardly a detali. It’s the main point.
    No. The reason is because the Shiite militias after AQI bombed the Askariya mosque, have targeted mostly Sunni civilians
    I agree that Sunin residential areas have been targeted. As the insurgency appears to be well-embeeded in Sunni society, this is the only practical way of ending terror attacks against most Iraqi civilians.
    and have become so dangerous that they threaten the viability of any possible Iraqi state.
    How so?
    It’s one of the primary reasons why many Sunni insurgents have called for a truce with U.S. forces, so that they can focus on defending and fighting against the Shiite militias who many times use American forces to advance their own aims which are mostly detrimental to Iraq and Iraqis.
    Indeed. Divide and conquer is a good strategy, and one that the Sunnis are attempting to use. However, their newfound weakness makes “conquer” improbable — perhaps “survive as a politically meaningful entity” is a more realistic goal.
    It also has to do with having their own Sunni police forces and army units
    Because when you are fighting an enemy, the apppropriate solution is to further arm him?
    Or do you think that independence from the political system (which is exactly what conventional independent Sunni forces in Iraq would achieve) is a way of giving a stake in that system?
    Not only is militarization of the Sunnis wrong from my perspective — I don’t see how it agrees with yours.
    since it has become increasingly evident that the national forces have by and large been infiltrated by the Shiite militias who rather than provide security for Sunni civilians are directly responsible for the violence against them.
    Clearly, the Iraqi police are primarily interested in protecting the greatest number of Iraqis from terrorists. This is unfortunate for populations that support terror.

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