The Commissar: Iraq was a mistake

posted at 3:56 am on July 27, 2006 by Allahpundit

It’s times like these I wish the right had a bratty little jackass to excommunicate dissenters a la Peretz and Zengerle.

As it is, I guess we’ll have to politely hear him out and consider his argument.

The nut graf:

We like to think of ourselves as rational people. We all have a certain amount of pride and face invested in our suport of President Bush. And I, for one, loathe the strident, frequently bizarre and hate-filled rhetoric of many Democrats. But these are essentially emotional reasons. Even if we voted for Bush twice, supported the war in Iraq, and cannot abide the Moonbats, these are no reasons to deny the plain facts we face:

Our actions in Iraq have resulted in a civil war that we cannot control.

Such is his despair that he’s gone ahead and sketched out a partition proposal replete with maps.

Was the war a mistake? The Commissar calculates that Iraqis are dying at about the same rate now as they were under Saddam — a queasy fact, but one which ignores Hussein’s various regional “externalities.” Maybe he would have sat idly by while Iran moved its nuke program into overdrive, but I kind of doubt it; either way, I’m glad the point remains hypothetical. And while it’s cynical to say that Iraqis warring with each other is “better” than them warring with the rest of the Middle East, it’s no more cynical than believing it’s “better” to have an Arab Stalin in power to check the local belligerents than to risk instability by trying to force a new paradigm. That’s the de facto position of most of the anti-war crowd, which is actually easy to forget amid all the carping about the administration’s incompetence. To read them sometimes, you’d think the left was gung ho for democracy until Bush’s and Rummy’s bungling soured them on the mission. Tain’t so. Have a look at the Jawa Report’s transcript of Maliki’s speech and note which passage Medea Benjamin took as her cue to start heckling him. It speaks volumes.

The question isn’t so much whether the war is a mistake, I think, than whether it’s a failure. I’m loath to call any campaign a “mistake” that replaced a country which paid pensions to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers with a country whose leader describes it as the “front line” in the war on terror and which celebrates the killing of Al Qaeda capos as quasi-national holidays. If your business is remaking Islam’s political culture, you can do worse than that. But if that’s our business — and it is — we’re painting on a much bigger canvas than Iraq itself; Iraq is, as the saying goes, merely the Model for the rest of the Middle East, a would-be bastion of liberty, security, and prosperity that’ll inspire oppressed peoples throughout the region to topple their fascisti and embrace democracy.

Unless, of course, the cost of democracy is made prohibitive by violence.

That’s what the terrorism is about, that’s why it was focused mostly on Iraqis instead of the American occupiers, and that’s why Zarqawi was so intent on inciting civil war. Every car bomb in Baghdad is a fish on the doorstep of reformers in Syria and Iran. If the choice is between being hauled off without charge to one of Bashar Assad’s dungeons and being afraid to leave your home under a popularly elected regime, why not take your chances with Bashar?

And here’s the important point: no matter what happens with Iraq now, the jihadis have already succeeded in sending that message. Even if the country does somehow magically emerge down the line as a butterfly, people will remember this chrysalis stage for a long, long time.

Is it time to use the F-word? Or have I missed something?

Clarification: The Commissar e-mails to say that “The occupation has been a failure. I was quite deliberately agnostic about the war itself.”


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I’m loath to call any campaign a “mistake” that replaced a country which paid pensions to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers with a country whose leader describes it as the “front line” in the war on terror and which celebrates the killing of Al Qaeda capos as quasi-national holidays.

Exactly.

Under Saddam the sectarian violence existed, but no one thought to call it a civil war because the Sunnis always won. There was no government to referee because the Sunni brutality was conducted by the government while Shia and Kurds quietly filled mass graves.

At least now, there’s a central government which is an ostensiblty neutral party. It’s going to be up to them to quell this violence, which they may or may not be able to do. That puts them in about the same spot as the Pakistani, Thai, Phillipine, Indian and Indonesian governments who also have to deal with local insurgents blowing their citizens up.

As far as US national interests go, none of this is a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Saddam is gone, Oil for Food is gone, the sanctions charade is gone, etc… We’ve accomplished what we went in there to do. As for civil war, it isn’t a civil war unless it causes a credible threat to the standing government. When the Sunnis walk out of the government and declare themselves independant or at war, then we’ve got a civil war. Not until then, and that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

After decades of brutal dictatorship, it isn’t the least bit odd that there’s payback afoot. But this is largely an Iraqi quality of life issue and it doesn’t speak at all to whether OIF was a mistake.

What makes people think that we’re ever going to be able to control everything?

Pablo on July 27, 2006 at 9:12 AM

It is disappointing to see people abandoning Iraqis so quickly. If you think Iraq is a complete failure, just imagine the current Isaeli conflict with Saddam in power. Qadafi would still have his weapons. The AQ Khan network nuclear trading club would still be in place. Syria would still be in Lebanon in force.

Here’s the lastest update on numbers from Iraq:

http://allthingsconservative.typepad.com/all_things_conservative/2006/07/iraq_index.html

Clark1 on July 27, 2006 at 11:13 AM

This guy is a moron. The war was a success, we won!! It’s the aftermath that is a problem because of the culture of death and violence that is part of the Islamic societies everywhere in the mideast and even in other parts of the world. The strategies of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan were classical ‘taking the war to the enemy’ strategies and that they were successful is evident by the absence of terrorists successes in our country since 9/11.

docdave on July 27, 2006 at 11:45 AM

Good insights-Iraq will remain a ‘quagmire’ until President Bush leaves office. The Dems/Code Punkys/Liberals have been screaming “Bring the troops home NOW!” for four years. When it actually begins happening, as a large force will no longer be needed in a stable Iraq, the Leftists will be gushing praise all over themselves for having accomplished it.
Once Bush is out of office,if a Democrat gets in (spit),watch as the amazingly unbiased media suddenly discovers all of the great news and progress in Iraq. And of course, history books decades from now will list that as yet unnamed Democrat as the “One who brought our troops home.”

Doug on July 27, 2006 at 12:13 PM

When people are given things they have a tendency to value them less than if they were earned. We are helping the Iraqis earn their own place in the group that call themselves independent nations. This assistance is only a failure if the Iraqis don’t step up to their responsibility.

We, on the other hand, will be considered a failure if we don’t take care of a major force in the terror plague – Iran.

Mike H. on July 27, 2006 at 12:53 PM

I’m rather tired of the “civil war” talk. A civil war requires an opposing government. There is no opposing government, and as said by Pablo until the Sunnis try separating it won’t be one.

Take Baghdad and one or two other cities out of the equation and see how peaceful Iraq really is. Civil War? Bah!

ScottG on July 27, 2006 at 1:41 PM

Actually, a revolution requires an opposing, and in place, government, a civil war requires two groups claiming legitimacy as the rightful government. Semantics.

I was against this from the get-go, was one of those who predicted a civil war. Water under the bridge–the key question is what now? Just packing up and wishing the Iraqis well is not an option; on the other hand, given the circumstances have undergone a sea-change, it seems pretty illogical to maintain the same game plan.

The comment that “we won the war” is interesting. W defines Iraq as part of the war on terror; so does this mean we have won the war on terror???

In hindsight, putting aside the political value, throwing around the term “war on terror” was a mistake. Terror is a tactic; we are at war with Islamic jihadists and their opportunist allies–Venezuala, N Korea. We need to come with another name that includes all this, irrespective of the means employed–suicide bombs, Iran’s nuclear program, the whole ball of wax.

honora on July 27, 2006 at 3:20 PM

Actually, a revolution requires an opposing, and in place, government, a civil war requires two groups claiming legitimacy as the rightful government. Semantics.

Not quite. The Confederacy never claimed to be the only legitimate government for America. They clearly separated themselves from the Federal government. They made no claims on northern territory. They claimed they were more faithful to the Declaration of Independence, but not that the US government was illegitimate.

I was against this from the get-go, was one of those who predicted a civil war.

But you just said: “a civil war requires two groups claiming legitimacy as the rightful government. Semantics.” Where’s the other government? Not one of the so-called insurgent groups is claiming they will reinstate Saddam’s government.

Please keep your talking points straight.

ScottG on July 27, 2006 at 3:37 PM

Scott G: In my book, this is a civil war. Both factions are trying to establish themselves as the dominant power in the current or some future government. (As for the American Civil War, the North was claiming federal power over the South, so in that sense, there were “two groups claiming legitimacy as the rightful government”. The South referred to the war as “the war of northern aggression”; we call it the Civil War as to the victor goes the spoils, and that includes naming the damn thing!)

However, this is all so much parsing. Here’s the plain truth: this has blown up in our face because we were wildly naive from the get-go. You don’t want to call it a civil war, fine, call it Rosebud.

honora on July 27, 2006 at 3:49 PM

No, Rosebud is Richie Petrie’s middle name.

You stated a position, then contradicted yourself. Nothing personal, but keep your talking points straight. It’s not a “civil war.”

ScottG on July 27, 2006 at 4:24 PM

Bill Roggio, back in Feburary, back when he was blogging at The Fourth Rail, listed a series of specific events that would constitute a civil war in Iraq.

The following excerpt lists some of these:

• The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance no longer seeks to form a unity government and marginalize the Shiite political blocks.
• Sunni political parties withdraw from the political process.
• Kurds make hard push for independence/full autonomy.
• Grand Ayatollah Sistani ceases calls for calm, no longer takes a lead role in brokering peace.
• Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice in Shiite politics.
• Major political figures – Shiite and Sunni – openly call for retaliation.
• The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association openly call for the formation of Sunni militias.
• Interior Ministry ceases any investigations into torture and death squads, including the case against recently uncovered problems with the Highway Patrol.
• Defense Minister Dulaimi (a Sunni) is asked to step down from his post.
• Iraqi Security Forces begins severing ties with the Coalition, including:

o Disembeddeding the Military Transition Teams.
o Requests U.S. forces to vacate Forward Operating Bases / Battle Positions in Western and Northern Iraq.
o Alienates Coalition at training academies.

• Iraqi Security Forces make no effort to quell violence or provide security in Sunni neighborhoods.
• Iraqi Security Forces actively participate in attacks on Sunnis, with the direction of senior leaders in the ministries of Defense or Interior.
• Shiite militias are fully mobilized, with the assistance of the government, and deployed to strike at Sunni targets. Or, the Shiite militias are fully incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces without certification from Coalition trainers.
• Sunni military officers are dismissed en masse from the Iraqi Army.
• Kurdish officers and soldiers leave their posts and return to Kurdistan, and reform into Peshmerga units.
• Attacks against other religious shrines escalate, and none of the parties make any pretense about caring.
• Coalition military forces pull back from forward positions to main regional bases.

I urge everyone to read the entire posting.

I think Mr. Roggio was exactly right back in February and that the conditions he postulates for a civil war still have not ripened.

Iraq clearly faces difficult times ahead.

It is axiomatic that some will cultures nurse grudges over religion, sometimes for centuries. The Catholics and the Protestants of Northern Ireland for example. The Greeks still very much hate and resent the Turks (their NATO ally) over their 400 year occupation. Bosnia-Croatia-Serbia-Kosovo is all about nearly identical situation — this time 3 ways, Catholic vs. Orthodox vs. Muslim.

The Shia v. Sunni religious grudge is more than 1000 years old and to expect for it to be subliminated, now that Saddam is gone, is idiotic.

The fact that, in spite of the sectarian violence, Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites are not only talking but cooperating in a government is testiment that Iraq’s future is neither as bleak as “The Commissar” thinks or as “honora” hopes.

georgej on July 27, 2006 at 4:30 PM

Is he confusing Iraq with Kosovo?

entagor on July 27, 2006 at 9:22 PM

Ralph Peters is having similar thoughts.

Alex K on July 27, 2006 at 9:51 PM

No, Rosebud is Richie Petrie’s middle name.

You stated a position, then contradicted yourself. Nothing personal, but keep your talking points straight. It’s not a “civil war.”

ScottG on July 27, 2006 at 4:24 PM

You’re a funny little man, picking over phrases and avoiding the larger issue. Well, whatever it is, I hear it’s in its last throes.

honora on July 28, 2006 at 2:02 PM

georgej: Do not accuse me of hoping for the worst. Because I see things clearly and not thru some Frank Capra-esque cheesy “democracy cures all” glasses does not make me unpatriotic or in any way hoping for the worst. It makes me a realist. I will make another prediction: Blair is speaking with W today–I predict he is telling W that the jig is up, Blair will call for a cease fire with or without W. W will cave, he needs Blair more than the other way around.

honora on July 28, 2006 at 2:08 PM

You’re a funny little man, picking over phrases and avoiding the larger issue.

Because I see things clearly and not thru some Frank Capra-esque cheesy “democracy cures all” glasses

Cheese?

a revolution requires an opposing, and in place, government

Cheese?

entagor on July 29, 2006 at 11:46 AM