Thursday, April 23, 2015

When Smart People Make No Sense at All

We did not break Iraq. We gave them an opportunity yet walked away when they needed our help.

This is nonsense:

When George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq and replace Saddam Hussein’s regime with a democratically elected one, he believed that this would, as he said, “serve as a powerful example of liberty and freedom in a part of the world that is desperate for liberty and freedom.” He and his team held firmly to this conviction, despite numerous warnings that war would fragment the country along tribal and religious lines, that any elected government in Baghdad would be Shia-dominated and that Iran would be the principal beneficiary from a weakened Iraq.

The Arab Spring did follow our battlefield victory in Iraq and the creation of a fragile democracy there, you must admit. Iraqis even boasted a bit about their example (and I think that is still a good post on the broader issue).

Arabs rose up in the Arab Spring demanding democracy as an alternative to mullah-style theocracy or autocracy. The results are not what I'd hope--so far--but the desire for something better is clear.

And before that there was Lebanon's successful effort to eject Syria from their holdings in Lebanon.

And Iraq was already fragmented along tribal and religious issues long before we crossed the berm and entered Iraq in 2003.

Saddam ran a Tikrit-based mafia state that let Sunni Tribes run Anbar, subcontracted control of Baghdad and central Iraq to Sunni criminal gangs, failed to control the Kurds in the north, and couldn't compete with Iran for the allegiance of Iraq's Shias in the south.

(Recall that one reason Saddam invaded Iran in 1980 was his fear that his own majority Shias were vulnerable to Shia Iran's propaganda to overthrow Saddam's Sunni Arab-minority government.)

Democracy--if supported by a robust American military presence to insist on rule of law and provide a level of trust that Iranians, tribes, and factions couldn't use force to settle disputes outside of politics--could have alleviated the existing divisions.

And of course Shias would dominate a democratic Iraq! Are these authors really suggesting that the continued Sunni Arab rule (15% of the population?) was the path to stability? Really? What is so odd and troubling about the majority having the major say in their government?

They seriously argue that Iran was the chief beneficiary of destroying the Saddam regime? Now Kuwait? Not Saudi Arabia? Not the Kurds or Jordan that was under pressure by Iraq to be Saddam's loyal vassal?

Were ordinary Iraqis who no longer had to worry about Saddam's murderous state apparatus of domestic terror not beneficiaries?

As for throwing Iraq to Iran, again, Iran already had tremendous influence in Iraq. With our military presence, even Prime Minister Maliki took on the pro-Iran Shia militias in southern Iraq on his own in spring 2008.

Without us, he saw no choice but to curry favor with Iran for his own survival.

Had we stayed after 2011, it would have been safer for Arab Iraqis to resist Persian Iranians.

And remember, too, if we broke Iraq by destroying the Saddam regime and putting in place the beginnings of democracy and rule of law, why has President Obama intervened to defend what Bush screwed up?

If President Obama ultimately defends what we won in Iraq by our sacrifice during the Iraq War, I'll forgive a lot of his mistakes.

After all, if Iraq is abandoned as an example of democracy for the Arab world, don't we just condemn ourselves to endless war with the jihadis? 

UPDATE: Link fixed to the article I quoted at the start. Thanks Eric! Although the quote is an aside in an article on a different subject, so the link is needed only for verification of the quote rather than context on Iraq.

You might want to see his post related to our premature exit from Iraq.

I know the president's defenders blame the Iraqis for the lack of a SOFA to remain after 2011. But to say this you have to believe that the president tried very hard to negotiate a deal to stay in Iraq prior to our 2011 withdrawal when he promised to get our troops out of Iraq when he ran for the presidency in 2008  and when he boasted of getting our troops out of Iraq in the 2012 re-election campaign. Please don't insult my intelligence by making that particular defense.