Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Story You're Not Seeing On Your News

Interesting that simultaneous to the, um, new direction we're supposedly taking, comes this:
ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces stormed an Iranian consular office in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil early on Thursday and arrested five people, including diplomats and staff, Iranian officials said.

The U.S. military made no direct mention of Iranians but in answer to a query issued a statement saying six "individuals" were arrested during "routine" operations in the area.

As the overnight raid was in progress, President George W. Bush was vowing in a keynote address on American television to disrupt what he called the "flow of support" from Iran and Syria for insurgent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
Agreed that no nation should interfere in the sovereignty of any other nation unless it directly affects that nation's safety.

So the question has to be asked, why are we still there?

This was my problem with this war from the very beginning. Since there was no direct link between Saddam Hussein and the September 11 attacks, nor was their any credible evidence that he either had weapons of mass destruction or intended to use them against American interests (one wonders if he actually had WMDs, would he threaten us with them?), we had no business invading Iraq, just because we didn't happen to like the leader of that country, at this particular moment.

It's at times like these that I'm drawn to history, and indeed, history provides an excellent example of what not to do:
I can, however, add a footnote [to the Bay of Pigs, the failed invasion of Cuba]. As fall approached, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, the irascible and slightly infamous patriarch of the Kennedy clan, called me up to muse a bit about that hot summer (Berlin Wall, Khrushchev blasts at the Vienna Summit). The conversation went something like this: "I tell you, Hugh, Jack is the luckiest guy I know. He could fall into a pile of manure and come up smelling like a rose. The Bay of Pigs and the other things were the best lessons he could have gotten and he got them all early. He knows now what will work and what won't, who he can trust and who he can't, who will stick with him and who will not."

Old Joe was right. Kennedy stood up to it, took the blame for the Bay of Pigs, rearranged his staff and a year later when confronted by the Cuban Missile Crisis steered a steady and successful course through that nuclear peril.
Likewise, Bush had his lesson handed to him early, twice, in fact: once during the September 11 attacks, and once more in June 2003, when it became apparent that the swift and clean military operation that he initiated had turned into an embroilment of American troops being called upon to police a people they had nothing to do with. Or you could call us, as Bush has, "occupiers", with all the negative connotations of that word).

But a sidenote: imagine if an honest-to-God crisis threatened the United States during this debacle? JFK learned enough from the Bay of Pigs to be able to steer us through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Imagine a similar scenario tripping up this tangle-footed booby.

Curiously enough, it's not like we were expecting, despite Vice President Cheney's assertions to the contrary, to be greeted as liberators. As US Today has noted:
• Military and civilian intelligence agencies repeatedly warned prior to the invasion that Iraqi insurgent forces were preparing to fight and that their ranks would grow as other Iraqis came to resent the U.S. occupation and organize guerrilla attacks.

• The war plan put together by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Army Gen. Tommy Franks discounted these warnings. Rumsfeld and Franks anticipated surrender by Iraqi ground forces and a warm welcome from civilians.

• The insurgency began not after the end of major combat in May 2003 but at the beginning of the war, yet Pentagon officials were slow to identify the enemy and to grasp how serious a threat the guerrilla attacks posed.
Take a closer look at that last one. Even prior to the "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" gambit, the military was wrestling with an entrenched insurgency that threatened to keep us there for years to come, "last throes" notwithstanding. The precise moment of this revelation is even known:
At precisely 9 a.m. on March 22, 2003, the third day of the war in Iraq, GIs riding armored vehicles through the southern town of Samawah waved at a group of civilians gathered near a bridge. Instead of a friendly reply, they got automatic weapons fire. The men charged the armored column in waves, attacking with AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

With their superior firepower, the Americans cut down the attackers by the score. But the incident stunned U.S. soldiers and commanders, according to an account by Staff Sgt. Dillard Johnson, who helped beat back the attack that day. Lt. Col. Terry Ferrell, one of Johnson's superior officers, had half-jokingly told his troops to "expect a parade."

The searing experience, recounted in "On Point," an official Army report on the conflict, has since become daily fare for the 138,000 U.S. troops deployed to Iraq. "For the first but not the last time, well-armed paramilitary forces — indistinguishable, except for their weapons, from civilians — attacked the squadron," the account notes. The difference now is that the Iraqis have become wilier fighters, increasingly adept at using remote bombs and hit-and-run tactics while avoiding counterattack.
Sounds like the Viet Cong, but what do I know?

OK, this has been a roundabout journey to get back to the Iranian question: if we are making the case that Iran has no business interfering in the affairs of Iraq, we shouldn't.

In fact, we should welcome their overt involvement in supplying arms to the Shi'a, in my opinion, since the burden for policing this war will now fall to them, and not us. we can quietly slink away, and lick the wounds of yet another failed large-scale war fought unilaterally for the liberation of a people threatened by a totalitarian regime. Too, this would force the Saudis (who owe us at least one) to fund the Sunnis. We could protect the Kurds as a sop to nascent EU member and staunch NATO ally, Turkey.

I, for one, doubt that things would get much worse in Iraq, and seriously doubt that the conflict, under this scenario, would extend beyond Iraq. Iran's army is too big for Sunnis to push into their borders, the Sauds would simply buy the best army money could buy (ours), so that even if Iran asked the Russians and Chinese to assist, their involvement would end up being quite minimalist (particularly as we would have some influence over them as well). Effectively, we would have pinned the Shi'a factions in between us in the Kuridsh north and the Saudi-backed Sunnis in the south, thus de facto creating a tri-partite Iraq, which is what most sensible folks think should happen there anyway.

It's not war by proxy, to be sure, but a mutually-assured security arrangement. Yes, there will be turmoil and unrest until things sort themselves out, but I think this is a plan that Americans could get behind, and certainly the Middle East would prefer to daily unrest and violence between factions. Call it a "cooling off period".

, ,