Thursday, June 14, 2007

Troop Surge Appears Ineffective

A Pentagon report released yesterday reveals that the level of violence in Iraq has not decreased since the implementation of a US troop surge intended to stabilize the country. While the amount of violence did initially decrease in areas where the US troop presence was focused, it simply resulted in a migration of violence towards other areas in which the US was not overly active. (Washington Post: No Drop in Iraq Violence Seen Since Troop Buildup.)

While the concept of a troop surge to quell violence does sound feasible on paper, the reality is that the actual increase was insufficient to address the problems in Iraq as a whole. It also did nothing to resolve the underlying political problems with the Iraqi power centers, and realistically that must be resolved before there is any hope of an end to the sectarian violence that is plaguing the region. A series of goals were set before the Iraqi government with the intention of settling the political and sectarian strife, however those goals have not been met and neither is there any apparent movement towards addressing them.

It is far too simplistic to view the violence in Iraq as being directed at the US. In fact, the US is a very minor target in the overwhelming majority of attacks. Rather, the problem is urban warfare between the Shiite and Sunni factions, a conflict that dates back centuries. Whether or not there is a political or military solution to that problem is in serious doubt. While it is a popular view today to point to the Hussein era as a period where that strife was contained, that is an extremely inaccurate view of the reality of the Iraqi political landscape during the Hussein years. Remember, the US and Great Britain maintained a "no-fly" zone in southern Iraq to protect the Shiites from attacks by Hussein's military. A similar "no-fly" zone was maintained in the north to protect the Kurds from Hussein's attacks. The iron-fist wielded by Hussein in the 90's may have applied to the Sunni Triangle, but it started to crumble fast the further north or south you traveled outside of Sunni controlled areas.

The situation in Iraq right now is not one we can solve militarily. Rather, it will need to be sorted out internally, and that likely means allowing the civil war that has been building since the 1920s to play itself out. British Imperialism followed by covert US intervention during the Iran - Iraq conflict simply put the inter-factional strife on hold. The stranglehold in the Hussein era was already beginning to unravel in the late 1980s, and it has now boiled over. To point the finger at current US military action as the cause of that unravelling is to deny the events that took place throughout the 1980s and 1990s. We certainly hastened it by removing Hussein and the bulk of the Iraqi military, however the knot was untied long before we arrived on the scene.

Now that it has reached the point of open conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites, the best course of action we could take at this point would be to step aside and let them fight it out. With Iran covertly supporting the Shiites, it's unlikely the Sunnis could prevail in that conflict, but until they settle it themselves there is not a lot that we can do other than get caught in the crossfire. At some point we will need to deal with the Iranian problem, but in the interim it is not necessarily bad for the US if Iran becomes increasingly tangled up in a Shiite versus Sunni civil war. As we can attest from our own experiences, that type of conflict can be a significant drain on internal resources.

Given a choice, it would be better for the US should the Sunni factions prevail, however. As a whole, the Sunni sect is less fundamentalist, less fanatical in their interpretation and application of scripture, and overall tends to be more tolerant of western ideas than their Shiite counterparts. Morocco is a good example of a Muslim country that is tolerant of non-Muslim internal populations and is extremely pro-western in its policies. Morocco is a predominantly Sunni population.

Unfortunately for the Sunnis in Iraq, the regions they control have no resources of value to the west. The Shiite territories contain oil and Iraq's only port, while the Kurdish territories contain oil and border a major NATO ally that is more vital to the West than anything Iraq as a whole has to offer. All things being equal, the US would likely champion the Sunnis and put a quick end to the conflict. With natural resources and political realities in the mix, however, we do not have that luxury and will be forced to deal with a likely Shiite victory in the south and central portions, and a Turkish / Kurd battle in the north.

In the interim, we need to step out of the middle. It is not a defeat in Iraq if we recognize that a Shiite and Sunni conflict should not involve US troops, and that we will withdraw until such time as there is a legitimate Iraqi government with which we can deal. I am currently at a loss to find a reason for US troops to attempt to quell a civil war that is truly inevitable. It's better for us all around if we step back, let them fight it out, and then deal with the winner. If it ties Iran up in the process, so much the better.

1 comment :

Silas Scarborough said...

Whatever gets US troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible is wholeheartedly supported by the pinko liberal faction. The only way Iraq will find peace is at the hands of another Hussein and we can see in Palestine what happens when two hordes of violent religious militants are at odds with each other so that fate is pretty much inevitable for Iraq but I can't say that I care. When people cannot control their religion, I fail to see any slightest reason that US troops should give their lives to enforce a peace between them.