Now we’re talking. Now we’re fighting. Now we’re talking. Now we’re fighting.
I’m speaking of the on-again, off-again, then on-again talks between the Marines and the Fallujah insurgents. Given that the fog of war is thick upon the land, it’s hard to say just how serious these talks are. From my vantage view, I think that both sides are positioning themselves to maximum advantage, in case talks do truly break down. This isn’t a bad thing, for either side, but it does create problems for us, politically speaking, because the more we talk with the insurgents, the more legitimacy they have in the eyes of the world, and it becomes harder for us to refer to them as terrorists, foreign or otherwise.
But I’m glad that we’re at least talking. If a free and democratic Iraq is to have any chance of succeeding, then Fallujah needs to be part of that process, and more importantly, believe that it’s part of that process. Telling Iraqis that the U.S. military is a formidable force, as GEN Abizaid did yesterday, doesn’t solve the problem, and rather exacerbates it. They already know that from the second Gulf War, so it isn’t news to them. Now, if we could apply our vaunted skills and strength to rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure, then we’d truly be making process.
I’m still working on what my response would be if I were an insurgent. But let me address a couple of points that Jim made quickly.
First, yes, my plan would test American resolve. Rather than talking about how resolute we are, I’m showing how resolute we are. And let me amend an impression, while I’m at it. While the Peace Corps-type civil affairs personnel would be noncombatants, they wouldn’t be unarmed. They would be armed, and able to act in self-defense, much in the same way that military medics do so.
But more broadly, it requires the President to do something he has yet to do: concretely ask Americans to sacrifice something in the pursuit of something greater. I’m not the only person that has said this—Kevin Drum has been harping about this for quite some time. And I agree—telling Americans to continue shopping, as the President did in his September 20, 2001 address isn’t what I would call a “call to arms”. If we’re facing the greatest threat ever to freedom and liberty, then we need to act like it. And we aren’t.
Briefly, the reason I’m upset over the Administration’s decision to whole-heartedly back Sharon is that it means that we can’t serve—at least for now—as an even-handed, neutral, third party for the purposes of negotiation, which is what this process desperately needs. Look, neither side is willing to compromise on some key issues, and as I’ve stated earlier, the whole process is in the control of extremists on both sides who have no interest in peace, unless you think Tacitus’ definition of peace (“They made a desert, and called it peace”) is it.
So we need to act as that third party, because no one else either has the will or the power to do what’s necessary—to knock both of their heads together and have them settle for less than the whole pie. Both sides want 100% of the pie; both are heading for 100% of nothing. And while the Israelis may have the upper hand now, that’s not always going to be the case.
Oh, and here—courtesy of the Economist—are the settlements in question. You’ll see why Bush’s decision to back Sharon is so controversial:
Last month, I believe, Foreign Affairs published an article spotlighting the Israeli security fence (the one Bush thinks is temporary, but is really a Berlin Wall for our time). In it, there were four possible maps delineating borders between Israel and Palestine. It seems to me that Sharon’s decided to go for a big land grab and turn Palestine into a collection of bantustans, a la South Africa back in the 1970s and 1980s. For a variety of reasons, I think this is a bad idea, but mostly because it renders Palestine almost totally dependent on Israeli economic goodwill.
Finally, Josh Marshall spotlights yet another reason we need more troops: whatever nuclear material Iraq may have had is quickly disappearing, and no one knows where it may end up. Why? Because we have hardly anyone guarding the facilities.