Monday, October 22, 2007

Iraq Concerned Over US Military Presence

In yet another twist of irony in the soap opera that is Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament is considering a resolution to request UN restrictions on US military action. The resolution comes on the heels of a US raid in Sadr City where Iraq alleges 13 civilians were killed. According to Parliament, the US used too much force when responding to attacks on allied troops despite military claims that 49 insurgents were killed in the clash. (LA Times: Iraqi leaders may ask U.N. to restrict U.S. military.)

The irony is that the Iraqi Parliament only exists because of the presence of US troops in the region. Remove our troops and the first casualty will be the ragtag remnants of the impotent Iraqi government. In the grand scheme of things, the conflict between the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds is well beyond the scope of the existing Iraqi government to handle. Without a strong US presence, that conflict will boil over and the existing Iraqi government will fade into the recesses of history.

A major part of the problem we face in Iraq, and one of the major reasons why my support for the way we are prosecuting this war has waned, is because we are not using the force needed to secure the region. The Iraqi Parliament may think that our force is excessive, but the truth is we're being far too gentle. That, after all, is the advantage the insurgency has in the region, and it's why a conventional force always faces extreme difficulties in attempting to defeat any insurgency. Simply put, the insurgents are willing to do things we are not, and as a result the local population fears them far more than they fear us.

Since the artificial borders were drawn in that region a century ago, what has held the conflicting factions together has been an iron fist. In recent years, that iron fist was Saddam Hussein and his sons. Once that threat was eliminated and it became clear that the US would not brutalize the people in the same fashion, the region devolved into the factional, tribal chaos that we see today.

What it boils down to is that we recognize civilian casualties as something to avoid at all costs. The enemy does not. Until we are willing to adopt that same callous attitude towards civilians in the unstable regions, the insurgents will continue to have the upper hand. Yes, I know that sounds harsh, but establishing a measure of brutality in our policy towards stabilization is what it will take to get the job done. If we're not willing to do that - and I fear we are not - then there is not much point in continuing.

The fallacy of establishing a peaceful, working Democracy in Iraq is just that - a fallacy. There is only one thing that can replace the brutal dictator Iraq had in the person of Saddam Hussein and that is another brutal dictator. Imposing a Democracy there is neither practical nor desirable. Neither is it a valid use of US troops.

So there you have it. Either do what needs to be done, as harsh as that sounds, or back off and allow the factions to fight it out among themselves. We can always deal with whichever groups emerge victorious, but if we're not going to do what we need to do in order to establish control over the region, then there's no point in sitting in the middle of the ring. Focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, keep an eye on Iran to keep them on their own side of the Iraqi border, but stay out of the civil war that is simmering just beneath the surface in Iraq.


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