Iraq Government "Center Cannot Hold"
Posted by David Shorr
An earlier post by Ilan highlights the mounting evidence that day-to-day cooperation within the Iraqi government has broken down. Center for American Progress' recent "Strategic Reset" report points toward more fundamental weaknesses, which in turn show why our military presence is past the point of really being able to help matters and must be pulled out sooner rather than later.
Here's the key passage:
Iraq's political transition and national reconciliation are stuck. Iraq's leaders at the national level are debating some of the same issues in 2007 that they have debated since 2003. Iraq's leaders fundamentally disagree on what kind of country Iraq is and should be, and Iraq's political transition has not succeeded in bridging these divides. This lack of political consensus among Iraq's leaders has resulted in a violent struggle for power.
So it's time to stop talking about reconciliation and benchmarks. The reason Iraqi political leaders haven't achieved the benchmarks is that they don't really want to. The constitution and elections were organized on the proverbial "Washington clock" -- as was, of course, the removal of Saddam. Let's look at the implications of this.
First, it doesn't make sense to wait for something that isn't going to happen. The lack of agreement on the basics of Iraqi nationhood and governance gives no political basis for reconciliation. As the CAP report points out, and Ilan amplifies, the approval of an oil revenue law bears no relation to its being implemented.
Second, there just isn't any way for an outside power to help keep the scales balanced in such a complex conflict. Set of conflicts, actually; every region of the country has its own particular civil war, often pittting Sunni against Sunnni or Shi'a against Shi'a. Whatever our military does is bound to either give an advantage to one side, or at least be perceived that way and thereby earn the hostility of another side. Bottom line, we're drawing heat rather than contributing toward a durable solution.
Third, supplying arms to Iraqis will feed the civil war. Even with improved inventory control and tracking, many of the arms we supply will inevitably end up in the hands of insurgents and other militias. It's Vietnam all over again, with hidden allegiances and the pass-through of assistance to forces other than the intended recipients. Remember that recent film footage showing Iraqi soldiers on an arms confiscation mission with Americans and they're talking to each other in Arabic about knowing where the weapons really are (I couldn't find it on the web)?
The CAP repor isn't purely gloom and doom and it has many constructive ideas about working politically at the provincial level and diplomatically with the neighbors. But I found it most notable for its slam dunk case for withdrawal.