Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Iraq is over. Not the war, the country

When I was part of a delegation to the region in the summer of 2006, the obvious reality, visible on the streets of Amman in Jordan and Damascus in Syria, was a massive presence of Iraqis, refugees from a country falling apart in the wake of the U.S. invasion. In those days, it was hard to get anyone to think about the regional effects of the enormous refugee flow (roughly 2 million out of Iraq and 2 million displaced within.) Now every day there is a new article about their plight -- though not nearly enough action on their behalf from the instigators of their misery.

Nir Rosen, probably the U.S. journalist who has gotten most deeply inside the Iraqi situation, has new, long article in the Boston Review that reports on refugee lives in Egypt, Syria and Jordan, as well as his attempts revisit long time acquaintances inside Iraq. More below...

Rosen opines dismally on the likely future:

What will happen to Iraq? Think Mogadishu, small warlords controlling various neighborhoods, militias preying on those left behind, more powerful warlords controlling areas with resources, such as oil fields, ports, and lucrative pilgrimage routes and shrines. Irredentist Sunni militias will attempt to retake their lost land, but they will be pushed into the Anbar Province, Jordan, and Syria, where they may link up with local Islamist militants to destabilize Amman and Damascus. ...

There is no “surge.” At best it can be called an ooze, a slow increase of American occupying forces by a mere 15 percent, consisting of few new soldiers and many whose terms of service have been merely extended. Yet the U.S. has doubled the size of its mission, announcing it will also take on the Shia militias as well as the Sunni ones. On the ground, that means American soldiers secure areas and then hand them over to Iraqi security forces who impose a reign of terror on the inhabitants. In the Iraqi civil war the army and police are not the solution; they are combatants, fighting on behalf of Shia-sectarian Islamist parties. The vaunted efforts to train Iraqi security forces have merely trained better death squads. ...

The American occupation has been more disastrous than the Mongols’ sack of Baghdad in the 13th century. Iraq’s human capital has fled, its intellectuals and professionals, the educated, the moneyed classes, the political elite. They will not return. And the government is nonexistent at best. After finally succumbing to Iraqi pressure, the Americans submitted to elections but deliberately emasculated the central government and the office of the prime minister. ... Maliki will be the last prime minister of Iraq. When he is run out there will be no new elections, since they can’t be run safely and fairly anymore, and the pretense of an Iraqi state will be over. [My emphasis]

Do read it all.

Then, if you are not depressed enough, go read Barbara F. Walter's oped about the history of the trajectories of civil wars in the last 60 years. The money quotes:

Civil wars don't end quickly. The average length of all civil wars since 1945 is 10 years. ... This suggests that, historically speaking, Iraq's current civil war could be in its early stages, with nothing to suggest that it will be a short, easy war.

True, many Iraqi factions -- including Shiite and Sunni groups -- would prefer negotiation to protracted conflict. After all, political power and oil revenues can be divided. The crux of the problem is that there is no way to enforce any agreement that is reached. ... The push for a constitutional compromise is naive and without any basis in history or realpolitik. [My emphasis]

Get the U.S. forces out of there now. The Iraqis are going to have find their own equilibrium. We broke it and we are not fixing it -- and can't. Hard for the U.S. to admit, but simply true.

Cross posted at Happening Here.