Sunday, June 15, 2014

Iraq: the neocons are the definition of insanity, but others are delusional about the alternatives.

  Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, attributed to many including Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein.    So, the neocons want   us  to do a repeat of our involvement in the Iraq war and expect the same results.  Yesireee.  How do we like that outcome today?

Let us face it: We are and have been involved in a centuries old Shia v Sunni civil war ,whether we intended to do so  or not. We had cast our lot with the Shia except when we harnessed a Sunni uprising  to win the war against Saddam Hussein . Such religious based conflicts are  far beyond our control, but  we  played the factions off to suit our own single minded determination to find WMD, protect oil interests,  or get regime change.  Policies set in motion by the Bush administration and  the subsequent  Obama administration’s attempt to extricate ourselves from it have now come to bite US interests in our posterior. The threat is worse than Saddam ever was.

If we do not repeat the previous Iraq strategy, what are  the alternatives? All bad. Obama is making some tough decisions and whatever he does will be criticized. Leaving ISIS (the advancing Al Qaeda extremists) in position to do us real damage is no option .

 Ultra  Obama critic  Sen. Lindsey Graham(R-SC) called  Pres. Obama delusional as he himself  skirted a call  to put boots on the ground. Graham  deludes himself. Graham on CNN Sunday AM  advocated  to get involved with Syria, blast ISIS  with air power, and   get rid of al-Maliki, forcing a new government to be inclusive, as if ISIS  already at Baghdad’s gate would want to accept a deal while they are ahead..

  Iran  will likely  enter the civil war because there is  an  opportunity  to realize their long standing desire to dominate  the entire middle east. Graham’s solution? Sit down and ask Iran pretty please not to take over Iraq. Give me a break.  Iran will do what Iran wants. We have few
 bargaining chips.

Involvement in Syria? The reason the US did not intervene fully in Syria was precisely fear our aid would land in the hands of ISIS, who had hijacked the opposition to Assad

The danger with air intervention is that ISIS imbeds itself with the  local population. One mistake causing civilian collateral damage  and we would turn the entire Sunni population against the US forever, destroying our ability to make peace..   The unintentional US air  strike killing friendly Afghan troops  this month should be instructive to the starry eyed. .Mistakes will happen.

  Short term, there are  some steps that make sense:   turn Baghdad into a fortress  as  Iran and the Kurds  get involved, pretty please or not.  It may be a risk we have to take. Long term, ISIS could overplay its hand, imposing extreme Sharia law on a culture whose traditions are  so  secular.

 The very best  outcome  could be  a  long,  bloody stalemate, or even a  fear of it , that  could motivate  a  political settlement. One was  first proposed by then Senator  Joseph Biden in 2007:  partition the warring groups in a federal system, similar to the Bosnia solution. 

This column was published 6/15/14.  Thomas Friedman's NYT column 6/18/14 takes his thinking in the same direction. What is discouraging is that Bosnia has not yet gotten so desperate, it has unified in spirit, though in name it is still one country. Bosnia, too, was ruled 500 years by the Ottomans and then governed after two world wars by Tito, a dictator, whose death left  a vacuum, followed by the bloodiest conflict in Europe since WWII, that was only ended by NATO intervention and the Dayton Accord, that divided Bosnia into 3 ethnic states with a federal government, now corrupt, gridlocked, and ineffective.  As imperfect as it is, it is better than the alternative of continued bloodshed..  

A version of this  post appeared in all editions of the  June 20, 2014

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