Reading Matthew Yglesias, I thought that he stated our problems in Iraq pretty simply. What’s more, he’s right. I don’t know whether the insurgency is composed of only Sunni Arabs, but that’s where they got their start, and I would be surprised if it were otherwise.
The insurgency isn’t our main problem. We are making progress against them; the question is, at what cost? Even more importantly, how long are we going to be willing to pay that cost? That’s the key question, there, and unless the President comes up with a reason why we should, the public’s not going to want to pay that cost. Especially if people start thinking that there’s no connection between security in Iraq and security in America, which they are.
I happen to think that there is; a free and stable Iraq means that there are fewer people willing to sacrifice their lives (not to mention ours) in suicide attacks against us. Moreover, it shows the rest of the Muslim world that freedom and democracy aren’t incompatible with Islam, and I think that it would create a wave of demand for the other governments in the region to start reforming. Such reforms would be slow in coming, but they would be coming, and they would make the Muslim world a better place.
That’s not what’s going on right now in Iraq.
It’s nice to pretend that the insurgency is the only problem, or even the main one, but it isn’t. Assuming the insurgency ends tomorrow and we pack up and leave(oh happy day!), what would replace us? That’s a much more important question, and a far bigger problem.
Right now, Iraq’s basically in chaos. Look at the last few days of stories; there’s suicide bombings galore. It would be nice if al-Qaeda were behind all them, but I doubt it. These look like the beginning of an expanded campaign of sectarian violence—Shi’a on Sunni, Kurd on Kurd, Kurds against everyone else, you name it.
Why? None of the security systems that we’ve set up to replace our presence (the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps [ICDC], the Iraqi Police, let alone the New Iraqi Army seem to be very effective in stopping the violence, let alone preventing it. And why is that?
Because the attacks are largely against them. Kill enough recruits, and you’ll make the remainder of the population skittish about joining those groups you attack. We’re already starting to see the effects of that strategy, in that you have Army recruits quitting in the midst of training, and trouble filling ICDC and IP slots.
If the security organizations can’t fill the void, something else surely will. And that something is likely to be either sectarian or ethnic militias. The Iraqi Governing Council, back in November, allowed the existing militias (like the Kurdish peshmerga and the Badr Corps*) to continue operating.
That’s not a recipe for stability, and I think that their continued existence threatens Iraqi efforts at a free and stable state. And you’re seeing the fruits of that ill-conceived notion now.
And that’s just one of the issues facing us.
What do we do about the potential Shi’a supremacy of any elected government? What happens to Kurdish autonomy (which they think will eventually become independence, despite what everyone else, including them, says)? Who’ll get the Kirkuk oil fields (reputedly the third largest in the world? And what about the Sunnis, and their role in any government? Women’s rights, anyone? What about minority religions in Iraq?
I could go on, but you get the visual. Iraq’s a mess, despite what the President and his fans say. And the only way it’s going to get fixed is if we roll up our sleeves and get to it. It’s going to take a long, long time, but it’s worth doing, and doing well.
So why is the President pretending like the job’s done already? It makes no sense.
The clock’s ticking on him. And if he leaves it be, he won’t have a choice, but to slink away, and he won’t have anyone to blame, but himself.