Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Iraq—Searching for the Real Story, Volume 1: Who's the "enemy?"

We can’t depend on the Bush Administration, the Republicans or the Democrats to give us the real story of Iraq. What we get instead is an over-simplified view of a complex situation, either filtered through Administration policy or skewed by partisan politics.

This will be the first of a number of posts examining the topic of Iraq: What is really going on there? How did we get in this mess? And most importantly, where should we go from here? (Hint: both political parties are far off the mark on this one!)

So where to begin?

Let’s try the basics. In Iraq, who are the allies of the US and who is “the enemy?” Now, the Administration insists on using the terms “the enemy” and “victory.” But are they defined?

Who is the “enemy?” What is “victory?”
Both the Bush Administration and Republicans such as presidential candidate John McCain insist on using phrases like defeating the “enemy” and achieving “victory” without defining either term. In wars past, these terms were obvious, but not so in Iraq.

Iraq is just not like those “old fashioned” wars where it was obvious who the enemy was. The enemy was always a particular nation or alliance of nations. For example, in World War II, everyone knew the enemies of the US were the Nazis in Germany and their Axis alleys of Italy and Japan.

And everyone knew when victory was achieved. As each of these nations surrendered, there was a big surrender ceremony with a signaling of an instrument of surrender, leaving no doubt that enemy was defeated and victory was in hand.

So – pop quiz: Who is/are the enemy(ies) in Iraq (select all that apply):

a) Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party (Sunni)
b) Former members of Ba’ath army and police
c) Al Qaeda in Iraq (Sunni)
d) Mahdi Army (Sunni)
e) Badr Organization (Shiite insurgents)
f) Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq (Sunni Islamists)
g) Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance (Marxists)
h) Various other militia that fire upon US troops or set up IEDs
i) Shiite insurgents from Iran
j) Whichever group is firing upon US troops this week
k) All of the above
l) How would I know?

You know, in baseball, they say you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Well, the Bush Administration has never published a scorecard so the American public knows who’s on first in Iraq and how the home team is batting.

At some point in time since the US invasion, each of the above groups could have been considered “the enemy.” But with changing times and shifting allegiances, not all of them still are.

Consider the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq? Before the “surge” they often attacked US troops. Now they are fighting against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Part of the “success” of the “surge” was getting native Sunni militia to purge their territories of the “outsider” Sunnis of Al Qaeda.

Clearly during the invasion, the Ba’ath army of Saddam was considered the “enemy.” But now, consideration is given to integrating these forces with the national security forces.

It’s clear that Iraq is no “old-fashioned” war with a clearly defined “enemy.” Don’t let anyone simplify it for you; this is a complex and changing situation. Even after researching all the players in Iraq, it’s not easy to tell who’s playing for which team.

I’d bet that even George W. Bush, John McCain, and Barack Obama can’t list all the groups in Iraq and which ones are our “friends” and which ones are our “enemies.” I’d bet even this trio would FAIL the pop quiz on Iraq!

So how can policy and decisions be made, when the policy makers and decision makers don’t have a full grasp on the playing field?

To be continued……

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