Thursday, October 30, 2008

Iraq—Searching for the Real Story, Volume 5 – What Next?

For better or worse, the next President will inherit the mess of the ongoing occupation of Iraq. What should he do?

In Volume 4, I stated my conclusions about the reality that must be faced in Iraq. No matter how one defines “victory,” one can’t reach it working through preconceptions or through the lens of think-tank neo-conservative theories.

I have read analyses of Iraq from many perspectives. I have heard interviews with soldiers and officers who had been in Iraq. I have heard from others who have been in Iraq for humanitarian purposes.

While I can't claim to be an expert on Iraq, I do have a vision of the what the US should do next. I believe the path ahead in Iraq must be:
  1. Grounded in the reality of Iraq in 2008
  2. Founded on the islands of hope within Iraq
  3. Multi-national
  4. Involve all factions within Iraq

1. The path ahead must be fully grounded in the reality that is Iraq in 2008.

One must admit the chaos of competing factions and militias; the conflicting viewpoints of Shia, Sunni and Kurds; and the fact that all these groups shift alliances from time to time. We need to know the factions "on the ground" by making contact with these groups.

2. The path ahead must be founded on the island of hope within and without Iraq.

Equal in importance to understanding the chaos of competing factions is to understand the islands of hope. These are the foundations for a future characterized by a stable social order and the cessation of factional violence.

I believe that these are some of islands of hope:

  • The people long for the “normal life” of working and living daily in peace.
  • The Iraqi people don’t hate each other as much as it is made out to be. Yes, the militias compete for position and influence, but that is a reflection of the vacuum of social order, not entirely of deep-seated hatred between factions.
  • Many of Iraq’s neighbors desire a stable and peaceful Iraq.

These islands are within Iraq – even within the hearts of the majority of the citizenry – and outside Iraq, particularly in many of the neighboring nations.

How do we proceed?

3. The path ahead must involve all factions within Iraq.

The US and the Iraqi government must reach out to all the factions within Iraq. These factions and militia must become engaged in some form of nation-building instead of destructive violence.

We know that these groups shift alliances, when it is to their benefit. We know that the success of the so-called “2007 Surge” is in no small part due to redirecting militias (e.g., getting the Awaking [Sunnis] to help expel the foreign forces of al-Qaeda in Iraq) or achieving cease fires (e.g., Mahdi Army).

These are the kinds of successes that need to be multiplied.

Here there are 2 choices for the future: either the various Iraqi factions can be marginalized as “the enemy” or a way can be found to engage them constructively.

Clearly, the McCain vision of another 100 years of occupation in Iraq follows a path where the militia and other violent factions are treated as the “enemy.” This is never a winning strategy. Any nation will come to hate a foreign occupying, no matter how benign – this has been true for millennia.

4. The path ahead must be multi-national.

Engaging all the various factions in Iraq may be better accomplished with the help of some of Iraq’s neighbors. Many factions don’t trust either the US or the current Iraqi government. Other nations (including Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia) may be able to aid in bringing some factions to the table or, at least, understanding their position.

Equally important is that the occupying forces must become more multi-national. While US troupes remain “lighting rods” for attacks by any disgruntled insurgent group, a more multi-national peace-keeping force, with a strong contribution from Middle Eastern nations, may facilitate the creating of a more stable and non-violent order in Iraq.

Granted, this approach runs counter to the neo-conservative theories that got us into this mess. The Republicans still criticize any approach that involves talking with Iran and Syria. Sen. McCain frequently cites Sen. Obama’s suggestion of talking with Iran as evidence of his lack of qualifications for understanding international affairs.

Still, I believe the Republicans are wrong. The US must proceed on a path that engages the Middle Eastern nations that desire a stable Iraq. Together, the path ahead must be a process that turns the various factions from violence to coming to the table to discuss peaceful coexistence.

This path to peace is the only path to “victory” for the US.

Who can accomplish this?

On this issue, I think the choice of candidate is clear. John McCain clearly thinks as a warrior; but the war in Iraq is over. The factional violence must come to an end. A warrior cannot lead us in that direction.

Now is the time to wage peace. The Iraqi people have longed for it for 5 long years, but the Bush Administration could not provide it. Barack Obama is a leader who operates in ways that facilitate the multi-national process of engagement and discussion that I have outlined.

But, will he have the patience to take the time needed? He has a stated commitment to a timetable for withdrawal. He will be tempted to reduce troupes so he can redirect spending to urgent domestic needs. Still, he remains our best hope.

Comments and Discussion

I don’t believe any presidential candidate has outlined such a detailed path to peace and US withdrawal in Iraq. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Great post and thanks for your comment on the Germany blog. To answer your question please see the Shock Doctrine video and the Disaster Capitalism videos that cover your Iraq points in detail. They are under the "Themes of this Blog Video Section," on this blog
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