Democracy Arsenal

« "Americans are beginning to resemble Germans" | Main | Pakistani Military has "lost the will to fight" in Northwest Pakistan »

November 27, 2007

Admiral Mullen is frustrated - get used to it
Posted by Max Bergmann

Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is frustrated.

“All of us are frustrated with the pace of political reconciliation at the central, senior level,” Mullen said. “And we have stated that in as many ways as we possibly can. And it continues to be a concern.”

“But in the end, it’s going to be up to the senior political leadership in Iraq to take advantage of this window of opportunity.”

And if they don't??? One of the biggest flaws in the current approach is that it is based on a flawed assumption that improvements in security will somehow magically facilitate reconciliation at the national level. Less violence does not mean that different sectarian groups will compromise on their strategic interests, or will forget the violence inflicted upon them. The past is not simply water under the bridge. Those who believe otherwise, should just look to Annapolis, where significant progress was made in half-century long sectarian war, because the different leaders agreed to talk more to each other.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Admiral Mullen is frustrated - get used to it:


"Significant progress" in Annapolis? Well, we'll let that go. The rest is good.

Admiral Mullen, that non-arabic speaking, non-politician and non-expert on Iraq is "frustrated with the pace of political reconciliation" in Iraq. Mullen seems to be confused. He is the chief military advisor to the president, not the Secretary of State. Condi is. Condi--where is that woman? I'm sure she'll fix that Iraq problem. Time for a meeting, that'll be significant progress. (snark)

Admiral Mullen is not wrong.

There is an opportunity right now for the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to strengthen its own position and sow division within the Sunni Arab population by following up the efforts of the American army with support for local groups. The fear that Concerned Citizens will turn on the government the moment the Americans stop looking over their shoulders assumes a calculation of forces on the part of the local groups that is probably not being made in many cases -- there must be some Sunni Arabs who dream of retaking Baghdad, but many others must realize that a renewal of full scale sectarian conflict would mean catastrophe for them and their families. Exhaustion could be used as a tool to build peace.

But it won't be. Maliki and his government are not strong enough to take the risks this course implies; they fear conciliation of Sunni Arab factions would incite rebellion among Shiite factions. Moreover, Admiral Mullen's comments are a reminder that the Bush administration has not addressed the deep-seated sense of Shiite grievance -- rooted in the history of Saddam's regime and vastly magnified by the insurgency -- that lies at the heart of the Shiite Iraqis reluctance to embrace "reconciliation."

For the administration to correct this mistake would not solve the problem, which is that the Sunni Arabs who prospered under Saddam have never recognized Shiite grievances either. It would however reduce the degree to which the American and Iraqi governments talk past one another now, the Americans frustrated that the Iraqis cannot take steps in their own interests and the Iraqis certain that American demands for reconciliation with the unrepentant Sunni Arabs are a call to step toward a deadly trap.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Guest Contributors
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use