Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Speaking of the surge...

The voices in favor of a US disengagement, or force redeployment, from the killing grounds in Iraq are getting steadily louder. Several additional Republicans have joined Senator Lugar and others in declaring that the US policy in Iraq must change. But the war backers have answered by pointing to what they deem "progress" in the "surge," specifically agreements forged between local sheiks and tribal leaders with the US Army and Marines in some areas. The Iraqis are understandably sick of the violence wrought by Al-Quaeda in Iraq and have decided to help the US combat it. This is certainly a positive development in some respects--score one for the optimists. But there are problems with it, too, as the New York Times senior correspondent John Burns makes clear in a Week in Review piece called Showcase and Chimera in the Desert. For one thing, there is the ethnic composition of the areas in which the deals have been struck:

"Two factors that have led to the astonishing success in Anbar — the Sunnis’ dominance of the province and the nature of their foe here — could have the opposite effect elsewhere, especially in Baghdad. There the population is an explosive mix of sects, rather than largely Sunni. And the Sunnis’ fight — explicitly so, in the case of many of the new volunteers — is not just against Al Qaeda-linked extremists, but ultimately against the American presence here, and beyond the Americans, the new power of the majority Shiites."

And then there is the matter of whether the Anbar success can be replicated elsewhere...

...The question is," Burns continues, "whether the Anbar experience can be “exported” to other combat zones,by arming tribally based local security forces and recruiting thousands of young Sunnis, including former members of Baathist insurgent groups, into Iraq’s army and police force. Or is what has happened here possible only because of Anbar’s demographics? Were local sheiks able to rally against the extremist groups because Anbar’s population of 1.3 million is almost entirely Sunni — a population that does not have to guard Sunni unity in the face of the Shiite militias and death squads that have sprung up in Baghdad and other provinces in response to Sunni extremist attacks?"

I'm not exactly an expert in Iraqi affairs, but I'm inclined towards the latter view. In ethnically mixed places like Baghdad, people do not have the luxury of concentrating on foreign fighters, because they do have more to fear from their Shiite neighbors. Besides, every Sunni knows the US put Shiites in power by offing Saddam. And don't forget, there is no underlying political consensus between Sunni and Shiia, the sine qua non of any kind of functioning, united Iraqi state.

So while there is some progress to report, it is confined to one area, one nationality and one conflict among many in this war. We are still trying to referee a civil war in a broken state, and I don't think we could change that dynamic with several million troops, let alone 120,000.

Count me surge-proofed.


Blogger TomCat said...

Bush gloating over Anbar success is the equivalent of celebrating thet the Kurds are not attacking the Kurds. It's sophistic pap for Fox News sheeple.

2:56 PM  

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