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08-12-04, 10:31 AM

Quagmire in Iraq
Spreading insurrections in Iraq's Sunni and Shiite communities endanger U.S. troops and add to doubts about a scheduled transfer of power.
A Times Editorial
Published April 6, 2004

The U.S. occupation in Iraq has descended into chaos. Militias loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr launched a broad insurrection across much of Iraq Sunday, killing eight U.S. troops and making a mockery of Iraqi security forces. Days earlier, Sunni hard-liners killed and mutilated four U.S. workers in a barbaric outburst that convulsed the city of Fallujah. U.S. forces and their tottering Iraqi allies look vulnerable, and U.S. plans for a transfer of power to Iraqi hands at the end of June look more unrealistic than ever.

There will be ample time for casting blame for the Bush administration's disastrous miscalculations in Iraq. Virtually every assumption that propelled this war has been shattered, and American personnel in Iraq are paying the price for those mistakes.

For now, though, fixing blame is less important than fixing Iraq. The immediate priority is protecting coalition troops and peaceful Iraqi citizens. Even before the spreading rebellion of the past week, U.S. forces were stretched dangerously thin. Militias such as Sadr's have become the de facto power in much of Iraq because the coalition lacks the manpower to handle day-to-day policing and security duties. Hastily trained Iraqi forces are not nearly ready to take over the job. Only NATO has the capacity to send meaningful military support to Iraq in a hurry, but the White House has resisted asking for more help and Europe has been understandably reluctant to offer it.

Iraq's political crisis is almost as pressing. President Bush said Monday "the deadline remains firm" for transferring power in Iraq by June 30. But transferred to whom? The president acknowledged that he doesn't know. The White House is placing great faith in U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to craft a plan that puts a functioning government in place until national elections can be held, but Brahimi has few options. Iraq's interim governing council has less credibility now than when it started, so simply expanding it would accomplish little. The growing defiance of major Shiite and Sunni blocs makes it even less likely that credible representatives of those groups will be willing or able to serve in a U.S.-approved government. Whatever does or doesn't happen on June 30, U.S. forces will continue to bear the primary military burden across Iraq.

Aside from our military personnel and their families, most Americans still seem detached from the deteriorating conditions in Iraq, but they constitute a direct threat to our national security. Iraq may have started out as an illogical battlefield in the war against terrorism, but the Bush administration's political and military miscalculations have spawned a new generation of Islamic radicals in Iraq and surrounding countries. Those miscalculations also have left our government more isolated when it desperately needs the world's help. Unless Lakhdar Brahimi is a miracle worker, the approaching deadline for a June 30 transfer of power may start looking more like a countdown to all-out civil war.

08-12-04, 10:35 AM
Quagmire II


How to Prevent a 'Quagmire' in Iraq: End American Appeasement
by Peter Schwartz (October 8, 2003)

Summary: The way to avoid the dreaded 'quagmire' is to stop apologizing for our presence in Iraq, and to start forcefully asserting our principle of individual freedom.

[www.CapitalismMagazine.com] Voices on the left argue that Iraq will become a "quagmire" because of U.S. "arrogance" and "unilateralism." They are actually half-right: disaster may indeed be looming--but only because of a lack of self-assertiveness by the United States. We are inviting failure in Iraq, and in our overall war on terrorism, by mounting a campaign that is hopelessly apologetic and appeasing.

The Iraqis have a long history of despotism. But instead of forcefully changing their political system, so that it no longer threatens the rights of anyone--Iraqi or American--we are deferentially asking the Iraqis for permission to proceed. Afraid to offend them, we are reluctant to defend our interests and to uphold our values.

For example, we did not appoint the members of Iraq's Governing Council based on their commitment to freedom; instead, we sought ethnic and religious "diversity" in order to placate the various tribal and political factions that dominate Iraq. Among the 25 members are: the secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party; the founder of the Kurdish Socialist Party; a member of Iraq's Hezbollah; and a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution--a group, funded by and partly founded by Iran, advocating an Islamic theocracy.

Is this the assemblage that is going to create a free Iraq?

To assuage the United Nations, we are asking for its aid in drafting a new constitution for Iraq. Is it conceivable that this organization--which helped keep Saddam Hussein in power and whose membership includes the world's bloodiest tyrants--can produce an ideological road map for freedom?

On the military front, our soldiers face continuing attacks in Iraq, but political considerations prevent us from trying to fully disarm the populace. Attendees at funerals and weddings regularly fire automatic weapons, as their means of "emotional expression." Our military planners apparently believe that a methodical house-to-house search for guns in Iraq would be too "intrusive."

We are still at war, yet we allow Iraqis to engage in public demonstrations--again, with automatic weapons in hand--in support of Hussein. Some openly cheer from the roadside as deadly remote-controlled bombs are detonated against our military. None are arrested or stopped, presumably because we don't want to be regarded as overly assertive.

This same, self-effacing policy is being practiced in Afghanistan, where the problem of "offended local sensibilities"--as a recent N.Y. Times article describes it--has led our policymakers to transform our soldiers into goodwill ambassadors, "whose focus is less on capturing terrorists than on winning public support."

Is it surprising that the Taliban now appears to be successfully regrouping?

In logic and in justice, there is only one means of "winning public support," in Afghanistan or Iraq: eradicating every trace of the former enslavers. If that is not sufficient, then the support is not worth gaining. Our only concern should be toward those who value freedom enough to recognize the inestimable value our troops have given them. As to all the others--they need not like us, only fear us.

In Iraq we started by apologizing for our presence, when our invading soldiers were ordered to jeopardize their lives rather than risk harming civilians or damaging mosques. We have deposed Hussein--but we are still apologizing. We are unwilling to ask Iraqis to bear the costs of their liberation. We are endorsing the very statism we are supposed to be overthrowing as we permit the Iraqi government to own the oil supplies and to remain in the coercive OPEC cartel. We are begging the United Nations to authorize multinational troops so that the American visibility will diminish. This conciliatory attitude only emboldens the enemy, thereby encouraging resistance and inviting a "quagmire."

Upon ousting the governments of Germany and Japan in World War II, we did not proceed on tiptoe. We did not express regret at having to stop traffic, search homes and shoot fleeing suspects. We were morally certain--certain that their system was wrong and ours right, certain that their system posed a threat to us and needed to be eliminated. As a result, the enemy was eventually demoralized, allowing freedom to take root. The identical approach should be adopted now.

In postwar Japan, it was Gen. Douglas MacArthur who unilaterally drafted a new constitution--over the objections of many Japanese--and who thus paved the way for a radical shift from tyranny to liberty. Emulating MacArthur, by imposing upon Iraq a U.S.-written constitution that champions the principle of individual rights, would be an ideal means of asserting our interests.

So isn't a quagmire what you see from your point of view.
Some see a quagmire while others see no quagmire...

Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi

08-12-04, 01:05 PM
It certainly didn't help that we put Saddam Lite (Allawi) into power.