[FoRK] CSMonitor: Questioning Iraq's Winnability

Ian Andrew Bell FoRK fork
Mon Jul 25 11:39:57 PDT 2005

85% of Britons feel that the war in Iraq has led to the London bombings.
66% of Merkins believe that Bush has no idea how to get out.

"The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle;  
pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without  
character; business without morality; science without humanity; and  
worship without sacrifice."

     -- Mahatma Gandhi, summing up the career and life of George W.  


World > Terrorism & Security
posted July 25, 2005 at 11:30 a.m.

Can US, Britain 'win' in Iraq?
Expanding insurgency, signs of civil war have some experts asking the  
question out loud.
By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
As the number of suicide bombings in Iraq has risen dramatically, and  
as insurgents return to areas from which they had been driven by  
coalition forces in previous months, more terrorism and security  
experts are asking if Iraq has become an "unwinnable war" for the US  
and its coalition partners.

John Burns writes in Sunday's New York Times that "events are  
pointing ever more the the possibility" that Iraq is entering a  
period of civil war. Mr. Burns points out that the number of killings  
in the past week and a half in Iraq has quickened at such a pace that  
many Iraqis now believe that a civil war has already started.

Recent weeks have seen the insurgency reach new heights of sustained  
brutality. The violence is ever more centered on sectarian killings,  
with Sunni insurgents targeting hundreds of Shiite and Kurdish  
civilians in suicide bombings. There are reports of Shiite death  
squads, some with links to the interior ministry, retaliating by  
abducting and killing Sunni clerics and community leaders.
The Times also reported last week that insurgents in Iraq "just keep  
getting stronger." Recent kidnappings of foreign diplomats, the  
murder of moderate Sunni policitians, and events like the bombing in  
a town near Baghdad last week that killed more than 100 people have  
many Iraqis believing that "the democratic process that has been  
unfolding since the Americans restored Iraqi sovereignty in June 2004  
has failed to isolate the insurgents and, indeed, has become the  
target itself."

While the number of attacks has remained the same ? about 65 a day  
according to US military officials ? American commanders say that the  
attacks are increasingly sophisticated, and that the insurgents seem  
to replenish their ranks as fast as they are depleted.

Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, who advised  
the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from January to April  
2004 writes on Slate.com that, while "the fate of Iraq's transition  
is yet to be determined," and that "it is strongly in the American  
interest, morally and strategically, to help Iraq build a democracy,"  
the Bush administration has made it very difficult for these  
objectives to be decided in the US's favor.

There is another way we could fail in Iraq. That would be for the pro- 
Iranian Islamic fundamentalists (the most militant among the ruling  
Shiite alliance) to conquer power through political force,  
intimidation, and intrigue, like the Leninists of a previous era.  
That has begun to happen in Iraq, with the steadily rising power of  
SCIRI (the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq?so  
named for a reason) and its 15,000-man militia, the Badr Organization  
(trained in Iran by the Revolutionary Guards).

Adding to the danger is the growing mobilization of other militant  
Islamist militias. Perhaps that was one reason why the administration  
tried covertly to rescue Allawi's campaign [as reported by Seymour  
Hersh in the most recent New Yorker.]. It is another sign of this  
administration's incompetence and duplicity that the very prospect it  
has most feared has been advanced by its bungling.

But James Jay Carafano, senior research fellow for defense and  
homeland security at The Heritage Foundation, says the idea that  
increased terrorist attacks on civilians "will inevitably collapse  
Iraq's fledgling democracy is utterly wrongheaded." He writes in The  
Washington Times that, as a rule, terrorism fails in the long run  
because "as a strategy, it lacks a theory of victory, a means to  
convert the desire to change the political order into reality."

Lacking a certain means to victory, the terrorists likely will  
continue doing what they're doing: killing innocents and lacing their  
Web sites with the usual propaganda about being in the eternal  
struggle, with victory bound to come eventually. Most Iraqis know  
better. Eventually, even the terrorist supporters will wake up and  
realize they're wasting money and recruits only to incite Muslims to  
kill Muslims.

Meanwhile, the best thing the Iraqis can do is to continue to nurse  
their fledgling democracy and make it as inclusive as possible, keep  
on increasing the ranks and quality of its security forces, expand  
the rule of law, and grow the economy. Sooner or later, the  
terrorists will wind up like most of their predecessors ? dead or  

British journalist and longtime opponent of the war in Iraq Patrick  
Cockburn writes in the Independent, however, that not only is  
'winning the war' in Iraq a questionable outcome, but the battles  
there have "inspired a worldwide" insurgency. He says that Iraq is  
now joining the Boer War of 1899 and the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956 as  
"ill-considered ventures that have done Britain more harm than good."

For future historians Iraq will probably replace Vietnam as the stock  
example of the truth of [the Duke of] Wellington's dictum about small  
wars escalating into big ones. Ironically, the US and Britain  
pretended in 2003 that Saddam [Hussein] ruled a powerful state  
capable of menacing his neighbours. Secretly they believed this was  
untrue and expected an easy victory.

Now in 2005 they find to their horror that there are people in Iraq  
more truly dangerous than Saddam [Hussein], and they are mired in an  
un-winnable conflict.

An editorial Sunday in the Louisville [Kentucky] Courier-Journal says  
that for Americans to "even kid themselves" that they can leave Iraq  
having accomplished "something worthwhile," two things must happen:  
Iraq must have a new constitution and a new government that is  
recognized by all three major groups in the country, Sunnis, Shiites  
and Kurds; and a reliable Iraq security force must be in place. But,  
the editorial argues, the "political news is bad and the security  
news is worse," raising serious questions about US involvement.

It would be unconscionable to abandon Iraq before it is capable of  
averting a descent into civil war and of defending innocent civilians  
from rebel violence. But advances are few. What Americans, and  
Iraqis, need to hear from the President is what changes he intends to  
make to achieve his goals. At the moment, he offers little beyond pep  
talks to stay the course. That has a Vietnam-era ring to it, and it  
is unacceptable leadership.

A Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll released Sunday shows that a  
majority of Americans now believes that the Iraq war has made the US  
more vulnerable to a terrorist attack. The poll found that 49 percent  
of those surveyed felt the US was more vulnerable, 36 percent felt  
the US was more secure, and nine percent were undecided. As well,  
more than 66 percent felt that Prsident Bush has "no clear, well- 
thought out plan" to get US troops out of Iraq.

And a new poll published today in Britain shows that 85 percent of  
Britons believe that the Iraq war contributed to, or was directly  
responsible for, the July 7th attacks on London. The survey,  
conducted by the British paper The Daily Mirror and GMTV found that  
23 percent of Britons believe British involvement in Iraq was  
directly responsible for the attacks, while 62 percent believe it was  
a contributing factor.

The Scotsman reports that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has  
backed off earlier statements that there was no connection between  
the two, now saying that he "cannot rule out a connection."

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