thoughts on Iraq's future

I haven't been blogging much about Bush's imperialist adventurism foreign policy, because the news from Iraq is just too disturbing. The rise of Iran-backed Shi'a fundamentalists. Cancelled local Iraqi elections. Sunni guerilla warfare. Deaths of American soldiers on a daily basis. Rumsfeld's cheery assessments. The growing frustration of the soldiers in the field (and their families at home).

And of course the omnipresent worry about whether there were any WMD to begin with (probably not), where they went if they did (too scary to contemplate), and whether or not the President can be held accountable (probability: negligible).

I have deep pessimism about Iraq. It's clear that Bush does not and never had the ability, let alone the will, to commit to nation-building - we've known that since his debates with Gore in 2000. It's also disturbingly clear that the military Clinton built is overtaxed far worse under Bush than it ever was under Clinton's tenure.

My worst fear is the following scenario, which I reluctantly conclude is also the most likely:
  1. Guerilla warfare from sunnis remains constant
  2. Shi'a join in armed resistance because they see:
    1. the US canceling local elections, denying them self-rule
    2. the religious Iran-backed mullahs speaking of freedom to worship Islam
    3. growing conservative-media-fueled American public sentiment that they are ungrateful wretched wogs
    and then draw the obvious conclusion that the US is trying to stifle Islam, specifically Shi'a Islam, and wants to install a puppet government, not one that respects Islam and its tradition. The constant aggravation of Ahmad Chalabi serves as final proof.
  3. The US is forced out of Iraq within 15 years[1], after an increasingly Palestinian-Israeli conflict type of hostility becomes ingrained among the populace
  4. A radical Islamic government takes power in Iraq, gaining popular support by invoking both Islam and liberation language, with the US cast as oppressor in both roles (see Point 2 above):
    1. purges of Sunni and former Baathists
    2. cooperation between Persian Iran and Arab Iraq, with Iran the true master (analogous to the controlling role that Pakistan played in Afghanistan, but with religion, not tribe, as the glue)
  5. The reform movement in Iran is suppressed as well with Iran's new strength
  6. Iran completes its nuclear weapons.

Ultimately the long term outcome is that Iran and Iraq will converge on the same repressive rule that dominates Iran today.

Is there any cause for optimism? Iran's youth is growing up. There will be a civil war in Iran within the next 30 years. And that conflict will spill over into Iraq. The conflict may well even bring Saudi Arabia in, given that the Sunni Wahabi radicals will see the strong Shi'a as a severe threat.

I think that freedom must come from within. America was not handed its freedom 227 years ago yesterday from France. We fought with our own sons and paid with our own blood. Iran may well achieve liberty on its own, but Iraq is much further behind. If Iran and Iraq do converge, then eventually Iran's instability of its disaffected youth will also infect Iraq (a good thing). And I think that there will be freedom for the next generation.

But our invasion of Iraq will have delayed it by as much as two decades - and has the potential to cause much suffering on a regional scale. Our hands are stained with blood.

The scenario above is at least as likely, if not more so, than the wild rosy fantasies of the neocons (now proven grossly unwarranted) upon which the Bush Administration crafts its foreign policy. But when the lives of foreign subjects (and I mean that word literally) is at stake, not your own citizens, experimentation by imperial powers is nothing new.

History is the greatest unlearned lesson.

[1] That may be too generous an estimate. President Bush can not order the withdrawal of forces from Iraq during his Presidency, because doing so would be an admission of error - and would surely lead to either his defeat in re-election 2004 or the defeat of a Republican successor in 2008. If the economy improves, then Bush's re-election is virtually guaranteed, and assume that a Republican will succeed him for two full terms as well (roughly the same length of time as the boom following a recession. That means that there might be a Republican president until at least 2016. The situation in Iraq however will worsen independently of the American economy, so there will indeed be a larger and larger disconnect between domestic rhetoric and news from the field. If Bush's Republican successor is indeed politically deaf, s/he might well see keeping troops in Iraq as necessary to political success (which the altered reality of the conservative base will surely insist on). If there are still troops in Iraq by 2016, a Democrat will win that election and pull them out. So the worst case scenario is sometime after 2016. Of course, it could all change much sooner than that.

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