Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Two authors with no clue about what happened in Iraq offer their thoughts on what to do in Syria based on those lessons. This will be gruesome to read. But I'm a glutton for punishment (as I prove every time I read Zakaria or Friedman), so what the heck, let's look, shall we?

Their mission:

Interventionists have successfully pushed President Barack Obama into increasing military involvement in Syria. Their rationale feels eerily similar to the reasons used for the invasion of Iraq. Before our actions spin further out of control, we should pause to review the lessons learned from invading Iraq, Syria's next-door neighbor.

It's fairly straightforward. They have to understand Iraq and draw lessons applicable to Syria.

Ten years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq remains in a state of continuing civil war-like violence. With a toll of more than 100,000 civilian deaths and far more injuries over the course of the war, the argument that we should enter Syria to stop the current carnage of this multi-faction war is undermined by our recent experience in the region.

At least they don't lose all credibility right off the bat by claiming more casualties than statistics justify. I'd call it over 120,000 dead, but they do specify civilian, so that may be part of the difference.

But Iraq's violence is not a continuation of our recent experience in Iraq. We tamped down violence by 2008, with visible improvements by the latter half of 2007. Resurging violence is laid at the feet of the violence in Syria that has given al Qaeda more room to maneuver inside Iraq with sanctuaries in Syria again. So this is dumb.


Just as our presence and choice of factions inflamed opposing groups in Iraq, many Syrians are bound to resent the presence of the U.S.

Our choice of "factions" in Iraq represented about 85% of the population (Kurds and Shias). Iraqis who resented our presence centered on the formerly dominant Sunni Arabs and the pro-Iranian puppets within the Shia community whose happiness with us didn't last long after the defeat of the hated Saddam.

If Syrians are bound to resent the presence of Americans, they are also bound to resent the inaction of Americans. Besides, nobody is discussing introducing American conventional forces into the fight. So I'm not sure what this is even all about.

There's more:

This time, the added danger of other powers joining the fight in an all-out proxy war looms large. Russia is sending air and marine support; the U.S. has pledged small arms and anti-tank weapons; Iran has been funneling arms and manpower through Hezbollah.

Yeah, it is a proxy war. Since Iran is Assad's major backer, our desire to inflict a defeat on Iran makes this a feature and not a bug. And if we manage to savage Hezbollah, that's good, too.

But what are the authors even talking about when they say Russia is sending air and marine support? This implies (do they believe this?) that Russia is sending air and ground forces. What Russia is doing is threatening to sell advanced air defense missiles and deploying ships in the eastern Mediterranean that have no effect on the rebellion whatsoever.

After this middling sort of idiocy, we step into major league stupid:

In Iraq, a country known before the war as one with good relations and frequent marriages between Sunnis and Shiites, the divide between these groups is now larger than ever. Prior to the war, al-Qaida had no presence in Iraq; now the country lives under a continual cloud of al-Qaida-fueled violence. Instead of quieting sectarian divisions, our invasion only served to fuel divisiveness, violence and terrorist activity.

Iraq was known as one where Sunnis and Shias got along? There was a history of centuries of Sunni Arab domination of the hated Shias who had second class citizen status; and thirty years of brutality under Saddam. In the 1980s, the Sunni Baathist rulers feared their Shia cannon fodder troops wouldn't fight for Iraq. And in 1991, the Sunni Arabs brutally put down a Shia uprising in the south. Back at the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, Iraq's Sunni Arabs proved capable of slaughtering Sunni Kurds with poison gas. Let me guess, the Iraqi co-author is a Sunni Arab who remembers the good old days when the Shias knew their place and were happy about it.

Prior to 2002, al Qaeda had no need for a presence in Iraq. Saddam had his own tamed jihadis (Saddam's Fedayeen) and supported many other terrorists within Iraq. After we routed al Qaeda from Afghanistan, they did indeed travel to Iraq and were there before we invaded in March 2003. Al Qaeda invaded Iraq in 2004--funneled in by Assad, if you'll recall.

Our invasion put the 85% majority in charge and the violence and terrorist activity--and devisiveness--was fueled by Syria and their Iranian masters who sent in terrorists to slaughter Iraqis. Violence now, as I mentioned, is from our absence and because of the chaos in eastern Syria allowing jihadis to thrive.

Good grief, I may be quoting the entire article in bits. Let's move on:

In addition to its primary purpose of rooting out weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to be there, our foray into Iraq was advertised as one that would free Iraqis from their detestable dictator, Saddam Hussein, after which Iraq's relatively educated populace would create a democracy in the Arab world. Instead, we have actions like Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces' recent deadly attack that led to a Sunni uprising across Anbar province and Baghdad, with increased violence in cities near Hawija and Sulaiman Pek, north of Tikrit. Deadly violence continues, with government troops attacking these cities in a military-style assault with loudspeakers urging civilians to evacuate while electricity is cut off. This get-tough policy is hardly the vision that was foreseen by the interventionists who urged our invasion.

We did not find WMD. But we did dismantle the facilities and break up the organizations that could have restarted WMD programs within months of a decision to do so. So we achieved a significant WMD victory.

We did free Iraqis from Saddam. And we did set up a democracy. It is suffering from our absence. But that's different.

And I think we see the Sunni slant of the Iraqi co-author here when the governmental actions are blamed on Maliki rather than on the Iraqi Sunni Arab population that has allowed al Qaeda to operate amongst them to again kill Shias. The cause and effect between Sunni uprisings and government troop movements (warning civilians to get out of the way, I should add--Saddam never did that) is largely the opposite of the charge.

Oh, I could skip some general BS. Moving on to specific BS:

Iraq is a broken nation, and we helped to break it. Whether the break was accidental or intentional, the outcome is the same for the people of Iraq.

Iraq is less broken than it was. Saddam broke it. Our invasion and liberation created an opportunity to fix it. Syria and Iran--backing al Qaeda, Baathists, and Sadrists--worked very hard to halt rebuilding. They failed. Iraq is better off than it was under Saddam and if we would help, we could make sure Iraq makes more progress and defeats the thugs who still try to break Iraq.

I won't bother with more. Suffice it to say that with 100,000 already dead in Syria--without us--the idea that we would make things worse is ridiculous.

These authors are clueless. They have no idea what has and is happening in Iraq and attempts to apply their random brain sparks about that war to Syria is predictably stupid.