Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Process, Process, Process

It is somewhat fashionable for opponents of the Iraq War to claim the surge didn't work because it didn't impose reconciliation on the different factions.

This view infects our government and military, it seems:

U.S. concerns over the slow pace of political, religious and ethnic reconciliation in Iraq are expected to dominate President Barack Obama's talks at the White House with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

With insurgent bombings and attacks still a major danger as Iraqi forces assume a larger police role there, Pentagon officials have voiced pessimism about any decrease in violence unless al-Maliki and his Shiite Muslim political allies become more flexible about sharing power with minority Sunnis and easing government control over Sunni regions and those dominated by ethnic Kurds.

While I have worries over and Arab-Kurd struggle over Kirkuk, I think this is overblown.

Look, would you say that the Union 1864 offensive that finally crushed the Confederacy failed because it only defeated the South and did not cause immediate reconciliation? One could argue that reconciliation didn't really happen for another century or longer, with the Civil Rights Act. Or you could point to the unity in the Spanish-American War 33 years after the end of the fighting.

Heck, how long do we have to wait for reconciliation in our country after the 2006 and 2008 elections with fanatics on the Left still looking for show trials of the dreaded Neocons? How much effort is being made on getting minority input on national legislation? And we're lecturing the Iraqis?

Winning in Iraq does not require the Sunni Arabs, the Shia Arabs, and the Kurds (or any of the sub factions) to love each other--just not choose violence to settle their differences.

And the surge set the stage for this by clearly defeating the Sunni Arabs and the Iran-backed Sadrists. That's what we needed to do--defeat our enemies and make them understand that they were defeated and so must work within the new system. And we did that.

So now the Sunni Arabs must work within the system. Our job is not to promote reconciliation--which often seems to consist of arguments for giving Sunni Arabs through politics what they could not gain with IEDs--but to promote rule of law so that the Sunni Arabs (and Kurds, who while on the winning side still feel separate to a great degree) feel comfortable working within the new rules even when they lose.

Worry about what can go wrong, by all means. But let's not make things worse by trying to reverse the battlefield defeat of the Sunni Arabs. Bring them into a system they can trust rather than change the system to give them what their voting strength denies them. That latter path guarantees more sectarian strife and not less.