Iraq’s Third Act

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Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the release of the Baker-Hamilton Commission report this Wednesday, even though much of the content has been leaked to the press for weeks now. War weary America hopes that the report will propose some path to the beginning of the end of a war and occupation long gone sour.

But the notion of a quick and painless resolution is most likely wishful thinking, as

Mark Danner outlines in the New York Review of Books this month. Danner says that the architects of the war in the Pentagon and the White House like to think of the the last three years in two acts: the “Real Iraq War,” the successful invastion and overthrow of Saddam, and the “postwar phase,” that is, everything that came after. Which means that now, with the release of the Commission report, we may be about to enter something like Act Three.

In the coming weeks we will hear much talk of ‘exit strategies’ and ‘proposed solutions.’ All such ‘solutions,’ though, are certain to come with heavy political costs, costs the President may consider more difficult to bear than those of doggedly ‘staying the course’ for the remainder of his term. George W. Bush, who ran for president vowing a ‘humble’ foreign policy, could not have predicted this…

If we are indeed in the third act…then it may well be that this final act will prove to be very long and very painful. You may or may not know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.

Mark Danner, Iraq: The War of Imagination, New York Review of Books, 12/21/06

Danner will help us parse the report when it comes out on Wednesday, and outline the history of how we got here to begin with. Some starting questions for Danner:

What are the hallmarks of this next phase of the war? And what solutions could we possibly arrive at that would both satisfy American political considerations and effect real change on the ground in Iraq?

Mark Danner

Former staff writer, New Yorker

Contributor, New York Review of Books

Professor of Journalism, UC Berkeley

John Mearsheimer

R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Author, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

Extra Credit Reading

Mark Danner, Iraq: The War of the Imagination, The New York Review of Books, December 21, 2006: “‘Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.

–George F. Kennan, September 26, 2002′”

Via Potter: When Iraq Went Wrong, The New York Times, December 5, 2006: “If the details of what happened at Nasiriya had been gathered, recognized and analyzed more soberly early on, instead of trampled on in a rush of triumphalism, coalition forces might have learned useful lessons for the reconstruction of Iraq: the limits of military power, the importance of a proper understanding of the complexity of a place and its people, the perils of underestimating an enemy.”

The Baker Hamilton Commission, Iraq Study Group Report (full text), December 6, 2006.

via Old Nick: The Baker Hamilton Commission, Iraq Study Group Report (Executive Summary), vintage books, December 6, 2006.

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  • Win

    First a minor point: “bated breath” in the first sentence, please!

    I do have a more important question: it seems that many people have

    been against the war in Iraq, both before and during. But where is

    the policy debate that gets beyond “get out of Iraq”? It strikes me that

    most of what I have been hearing, especially during the Congressional

    campaign, doesn’t tackle the problems–it is just rhetoric against the

    current Bush administration policies. What are the alternatives?

    Presumably the Baker-Hamilton commission report will provide some

    of that. But why has there been so little on the table before?

  • plnelson

    Ha! You beat me to it on “bated”!

    Anyway, WRT “What are the alternatives?” there really aren’t any! That’s the tragedy of this mess Bush and the neocons got us into. The “Pottery Barn” metaphor everyone is so fond of is disturbingly apt. If you break an expensive piece of crystal you can debate all you want about whether to try Elmer’s Glue or Superglue or duct tape, but the fact is that all of them will create a disgusting parody of an expensive piece of crystal.

    The other problem is, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere on ROS, that it is sheer conceit and hubris to imagine we can predict what the outcome of any “resolution” we come up with will be, including complete and immediate withdrawal. And those are the same personality flaws that got us INTO this mess! The only predictible virtue of complete and immediate withdrawal is that, at least for a time, we won’t be spending billions of dollars a day putting our troops in harm’s way.

  • nother

    Act III – Face Saving Phase.

    We are about to witness the most elaborate demonstration of saving face the world has ever seen.

    Solutions? I think the Arab League will join the narrative by sending in a peacekeeping force to replace our troops. Our government will support this because The Arab League is predominantly Sunni and will be a counter balance to Iran. In fact, Cheney’s already been pushing Egypt in this regard. The question is how will Iran react? Would Iraq become the front lines for a wider regional conflict between Shiite and Sunnis? Iran will need to be appeased in some major way.

    I’m curious who Mr. Danner thinks might replace bolting Josh Bolton. The Face Saving Phase will entail delicately eating crow at the UN and it will take one hell of a diplomatic diplomat to pull it off.

    Incidentally, it looks like an Arab League peacekeeper force may be the solution in Sudan as well.

  • rc21

    To nother: Would you be in favor of an Arab peacekeeping force in Iraq?

  • The Neo Cons will salvage something out of Iraq in Act III. In this Act, a concensus is manufactured that a major reason that the US got bogged down in Iraq was the interference of Iran and Syria. Iran and Syria will be revealed as the real enemy, as spinning wheels on the axis of evil. So the face-saving solution (to be touted as the real strategy all along several years from now) is for the US to team up with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other allies to contain the threat from Iran/Syria/Hezbollah.

    All will become clear: Iran is the one pursuing WMD. Iran is the one supplying and directing Hezbollah. Iran (with help from Syria) is the one preventing democracy from spreading in Lebanon. Iran is the one supplying weapons to Palestinian militants. Maybe Iran is the one who tricked us into invading Iraq! Maybe Bush is the far-sighted selfless Churchilian leader who saw all of this before anyone else, and who stood alone against the Democrat weaklings, long enough for Iran to reveal its true colors. Yah, that’s it!

    And there is just enough truth to this characterization of Iran’s actions to provide cover for past actions and impetus for future ones. There is just enough concern among the Europeans about Iranian WMD and threats to the Gulf to allow the US to rally support once again.

  • Nick

    I wonder if anyone caught this story on Sunday’s All Things Considered. It’s brief, but telling: Saudi Arabia is increasingly anxious over Iran’s influence in Iraq. The ATC segment reports that arms and money for arms and support have been flowing from Saudi sources to the Sunnis in Iraq. But it’s not merely the Saudis who are funding co-religionists in the Iraq war: Jordanians are too.

    It should surprise no one that Saudi Arabia is dominated by Wahabist fundamentalists – Sunnis – but what might surprise is that Saudi Arabia has a Shiite minority. This might also surprise: Irshad Manji details how the Wahabis characterize Shi’ism as “a Jewish plot”.

    In a cultural milieu as soaked in anti-Semitism (genuine anti-Semitism, not the ersatz stuff-of-smear some of us have been accused of on threads in the past five months) as the Muslim Arab world (read Manji’s book if you don’t believe me), accusations of “being Jews” slung from one Muslim sect toward another is metaphoric gasoline onto flame. Manji also details how the Shiites within Saudi Arabia are repressed into virtual serfdom. Importantly, they live predominately in the oil producing regions the (feudal) Desert Kingdom relies on for its wealth.

    So, Saudi Arabia has internal reasons to fear the rise to regional power of the Arab Shiites on their northeastern borders – Arab Shiites not subservient to Sunnis—and Arab Shiites already at war with Wahabbist fundamentalists. The progressive Arab website Middle East Transparent meanwhile offers this cached article: Stepping Into Iraq: Saudi Arabia Will Protect Sunnis if the U.S. Leaves By Nawaf Obaid

    This malevolent stew of sectarianism is what American and British analysts refer to when muttering darkly about the dangers of a “wider regional war”: an internecine Arab conflict grounded, ultimately, in incompatible theological differences. (Who said religious beliefs are benign? Are you sure? Remember nother’s question on the ‘Out of Iraq’ hour: What are the distinguishing markers of Sunnis and Shiites? And the answer: none. The only differences exist in the minds of the killers and their victims.)

    So, if the question is “What’s Act III?” perhaps we might want to consider the sheer folly of trying to ‘keep peace’ in something akin to the Thirty Years War: a prolonged, savage barbarism between Catholics (supported by Hapsburgs) and Protestants (supported by sundry ‘anti-imperialists’ such as the Danes, and then the Swedes). I suggested somewhere on ROS (‘What Year Is It?’, I think…?) that the ‘year’ might be 1618. Maybe Act III should be: get the hell out of Germany (Mesopotamia) before the butchery gets serious.

    I’d dearly love to be wrong. But if all we’ve done is rip the lid off of simmering religious incompatibilities and sectarian-based social resentments and hatreds, I can’t for the life of me think of a way to serve any useful role. (I’m flatly appalled by the recent suggestion to arm everyone in Iraq…but what if that’s the only way to limit the carnage? It seems so counterintuitive. And yet…)

    Peter Galbraith is probably right: the contrived, tripartite entity known as ‘Iraq’ doesn’t have enough ‘glue’ between its disparate segments to keep it whole. The folks we Americans would identify with as ‘Iraqis’ corollary to us are the middle class professionals either fleeing the country, considering flight, or already dead. Perhaps, then the best we can do is to follow Galbraith’s advice and help separate the three entities with as little further carnage as humanly possible.

  • Nick

    The final paragraph of the previous post ought to have read:

    Peter Galbraith is probably right: the contrived, tripartite entity known as ‘Iraq’ doesn’t have enough ‘glue’ between its disparate segments to keep it whole. The folks we Americans would identify with as ‘Iraqis’ corollary to us are the middle class professionals either fleeing the country, considering flight, or already dead. Perhaps, then the best we can do is to follow Galbraith’s advice and help separate the three entities with as little further carnage as humanly possible.

    Brendan, if you close my anchor in the previous post, please feel free to delete this corrective one. Thanks.

  • What I want to know is where Pentagon will go in the next act of US imperial aggression if it slips and slides out of Iraq. The economy is just too primed with military spending for any long-term disengagement. And there are all those new weapons to test and the next batch of recruits to season. Watch out Hugo.

  • Agroblogger

    So the study group report has been published, and the policy being proposed, if you recall, was termed “Vietnamization” under Richard Nixon in 1969. This involved the unilateral withdrawl of American troops from combat situations, and the assumption of greater combat duties by the South Vietnamese army. In parallel, US troops took on a greater role in logistics, training, and especially air support. In Vietnam, as will be the case in Iraq, troops were gradually drawn down on the basis of political conditions in the US rather than conditions on the ground. Of all the purported similarities between Vietnam and Iraq, this proposed policy is by far the most striking. Let’s also keep in mind that Henry Kissinger has been advising President Bush and Darth Cheney on the war in Iraq.

    America does indeed have a short historical memory. Don’t look for the news media to spell out this episode of history repeating itself.

  • Nick

    NPR offers a link to the full text of the Iraq Study Group’s report, dubiously titled ‘ The Way Forward’. (You’ll need Adobe.)

    They offer a few excerpts, too.

  • Mark Danner is more than a reporter; he has been a consistent critic of the war. Point of view is fine, but why only one guest to guide listeners through such a powerfully complex situation, set of options and interpretation of the the Baker report?

  • Nick

    Sheesh. And apologies.

    Once more, properly, this time:

    NPR has linked to the Iraq Study Group’s report, dubiously titled ‘ The Way Forward’. (You’ll need Adobe.)

    They offer a few excerpts, too.

  • plnelson

    Sidewalker sez: What I want to know is where Pentagon will go in the next act of US imperial aggression if it slips and slides out of Iraq. The economy is just too primed with military spending for any long-term disengagement. And there are all those new weapons to test and the next batch of recruits to season. Watch out Hugo.

    Hugo will be long-since retired before the US gets involved in any more adventures. You’ve heard the expression, “once burned twice shy”? Well, Vietnam and Iraq represent TWICE burned. I think it will tough to convince the US public to deploy troops to Aruba after this debacle.

    Also one thing that hasn’t come up yet is that the professional military is PISSED at this. Right now the US Army and Marines are GUTTED – their vehicles, their armor, their generators, their comms gear, their helicopters, EVERYTHING is tapped out – and that INCLUDES the reserves and Guards units! All that money the DoD has been spending has not been going to maintain readiness and the junior and field officers are rip**** about it! Those officers will become the senior officers over the next few years and they’ll remember this bigtime.

    I think we’re looking at a generation before the US does anything this stupid again.

  • Nick

    “I think we’re looking at a generation before the US does anything this stupid again.”

    Let’s hope ever, PLN.

    Ever.

    This debacle, as you so aptly put it, is a direct consequence of the fantasy called American Exceptionalism. Which deserves retirement to the Home for Geriatric Myths, where it will find a room awaiting in the same wing with (Roman) Jupiter and other febrile nonsense (like ‘Aryan Superiority’).

  • Potter

    I just finished reading the Danner article linked above in the NYRB, a long thoughtful and must-read piece imo for all citizens. It brings the picture into better focus even though much of it we, many of us, heard, read, thought and feared. I started collecting quotes but they are just too numerous. I did appreciate the numerous references to the late George Kennan, one of our wiser elders on matters of foreign policy.

    This quote from Danner with Kenner at the end:

    We are well down the road toward this dark vision [painted by GWB recently quoted above in the article], a wave of threatening instability that stands as the precise opposite of the Bush administration’s “democratic tsunami,” the wave of liberalizing revolution that American power, through the invasion of Iraq, was to set loose throughout the Middle East. The chances of accomplishing such change within Iraq itself, let alone across the complicated landscape of the entire region, were always very small. Saddam Hussein and the autocracy he ruled were the product of a dysfunctional politics, not the cause of it. Reform of such a politics was always going to be a task of incalculable complexity. Faced with such complexity, and determined to have their war and their democratic revolution, the President and his counselors looked away. Confronted with great difficulties, their answer was to blind themselves to them and put their faith in ideology and hope—in the dream of a welcoming landscape, magically transformed. The evangelical vision may have made the sense of threat after September 11 easier to bear but it did not change the risks and the reality on the ground. The result is that the wave of change the President and his officials were so determined to set in course by unleashing American military power may well turn out to be precisely the wave of Islamic radicalism that they had hoped to prevent.

    Kennan quote:

    Anyone who has ever studied the history of American diplomacy, especially military diplomacy, knows that you might start in a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end, you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you had never thought of before. In other words, war has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it.

    My overwhelming feeling is that the buck stops with this President, and he was a very very poor choice, ultimately “selection” in a close race that, had it gone the other way. would have made all the difference. Many people failed this country in helping to bring him to power.

    I came here originally to post this below, but had to stop to read the Danner article first:

    This article was in the NYTimes yesterday (I think is avaiblable w/o subscription) by Tim Pritchard When Iraq Went Wrong.

    Is it pure myth to say Act 1 was a great success but Act 2 ( the occupation) is the problem.? As Prtichard ( and Danner) points out, the seeds, the warnings of where we are today were there right from the beginning, lessons, for instance, not learned from Nasiriya, a Shiite town where we were not welcomed at all but treated as invaders by it’s armed citizens. He says:

    There were other incidents in Nasiriya, minor at the time, that foreshadowed events that would become an international embarrassment. At one point, a Marine commander came across a gruesome scene: young marines, standing over a pile of Iraqi corpses, taking photos of each other, thumbs up and grinning inanely to camera. It took only a year for the first photos of American soldiers grinning over the bodies of abused Iraqi prisoners to appear.

    BUT what was most striking at Nasiriya in those very early days of the war was the refusal of freedom-deprived Iraqis to come forward and support coalition forces. At best, the civilians stood by and watched the American war machine thunder into town. At worst, they ran to arms stashes, grabbed AK-47s and took to the streets. Four days into the invasion, and already, instead of coming together, Iraqis were falling back into their faiths and tribes and killing coalition forces and each other.

    Eighteen marines died in Nasiriya that March day, in what turned out to be the bloodiest phase of the invasion. Four days later the city was finally declared secure. Two weeks after that, American forces triumphantly entered Baghdad and helped topple Saddam Hussein’s statue. Everyone lauded the speed and efficiency with which United States forces had fought their way to Baghdad. The trauma of Nasiriya was forgotten.

    And that was a shame. If the details of what happened at Nasiriya had been gathered, recognized and analyzed more soberly early on, instead of trampled on in a rush of triumphalism, coalition forces might have learned useful lessons for the reconstruction of Iraq: the limits of military power, the importance of a proper understanding of the complexity of a place and its people, the perils of underestimating an enemy. Instead, of course, President Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and made his hubristic speech announcing the end of combat operations under a banner announcing “Mission Accomplished.”

    The geo-politics of this situation is mind-boggling to navigate. There are so many players, too many interests to account for. And yet I don’t think we ( which includes everyone given the threat of regional war) have any choice but to navigate diplomatically, involving everyone.

    I agree with Peter Galbraith ( Nicks’s above) though I have not read his book. He’s been saying that the cracks are too deep in that pot/country to be successfully glued back together, for Iraq to be a whole. This is especially true today when Iraqi society on top of having been traumatized for decades, have been newly traumatized. Thanks, all this, to lack of wisdom on our part.

  • Potter

    Again The result is that the wave of change the President and his officials were so determined to set in course by unleashing American military power may well turn out to be precisely the wave of Islamic radicalism that they had hoped to prevent.

    A Greek tragedy.

  • loki

    Bring Back Jim Baker! UN Ambassador! Better still have W appoint Dad,Bill Clinton and Jim Baker as extrodianry representaives to the Middle East. Remember Baker had offered to Clinton to stay on to secure Peace in Middle East. He has been there since the beginning of the Gulf War which really started in 1991,continued through Clinton, and intensified during W.

    Clingto and Dad raised money for Katrina and Tsunami. Money,Politictics and Diplomacy are needed. Baker and Clinton are experts on politics and money. Bush 1 was noted for diplomacy.

  • rjacoff

    I would like to know how James Baker and Sandra Day O’connor feel about having created the disastrous presidency that created the situation they are now trying to address.

  • loki

    Good question! That’s why they must be tasked to clean this mess up!

  • joshua hendrickson

    Nick,

    ah, but American Exceptionalism is the myth that won’t die, like the myths of Moses and Abraham and Jesus and Mohammad. One God = One Greatest of all Nations, Under God. I don’t think human beings, considered en masse, are at all ready to give up their own pride in themselves and their beliefs. Least of all Americans. In fact, given the developments in the US since Reagan (“the shining city on the hill” et al), I think that the myth of American Exceptionalism, equating God with America, is only just getting up to cruising speed. Bumps in the road like Iraq aren’t about to stop this behemoth. I don’t think the threat of terrorism adds up to so much as an IED in the road (to extend the metaphor). In the end we will crash, sure. But that accident is likely to be nuclear in nature.

  • joshua hendrickson

    rjacoff and loki,

    I think it is because of Baker’s and O’Connor’s involvement in creating 43 that they ought to have been left out of the process entirely.

    Back in 2004, I was talking about the upcoming election with my coworkers. One of them said she was voting for Bush because he’d made a mess and now he needed to clean it up.

    Well, that would have been a great, logical conclusion … if there were any evidence that the Republicans are either interested in or competent at cleaning up the messes they make. W never had to fix his own messes in his whole life. He sure hasn’t done so since being re-elected.

    Only those in govt who are convinced that the messes really are messes should be allowed to clean them up.

    It’s gonna be a long two years.

  • joshua hendrickson

    “The result is that the wave of change the President and his officials were so determined to set in course by unleashing American military power may well turn out to be precisely the wave of Islamic radicalism that they had hoped to prevent.”

    I think that there is no “may well turn out to be” about it. It definitely IS that wave. If they had only paid attention to what Osama Bin Laden was saying about the motive behind 9/11, they would have realised that a reaction like Iraq was precisely what al Qaeda was hoping for.

    It’s really unbelievable. Brer George W. Fox threw Brer Osama Bin Rabbit right into the briar patch. I would ask, how could an American President be so stupid? How could he play so easily into our enemy’s hands?

    But I won’t ask. We knew he was this stupid even before he was selected. We knew it before Afghanistan fizzled and he lied us into Iraq. We knew it by the time we were given the atrocious choice of Kerry to replace him. We’ve known it all along, and why did we put up with him?

    Because he WAS stupid. Because he is not an egghead like Gore or a genius like Clinton. Because he’s the guy “to have a beer with.” Because he’s a spoiled kid AND NOTHING MORE. Because, in short, Americans hate having people smarter than they are in the white house.

    We ask for it, and we get it.

  • plnelson

    rjacoff asks . . . I would like to know how James Baker and Sandra Day O’connor feel about having created the disastrous presidency that created the situation they are now trying to address.

    Don’t foist this disaster off on a few flunkies! The US public supported this invasion by a wide margin. And Bush and his party were re-elected by big numbers in 2004.

    Basically the Americans asked for this; they practically begged for it, and now they’re getting it, good and hard. But instead of lying back and thinking of England, I suggest they lie back and think of Vietnam, because the last American servicemen will probably leave Iraq from the roof of the US embassy via helicopter.

  • Potter

    Bush 04 was the result of Bush 00 and the fact that Americans took this long to awak from their slumber.

    It’s ironic that we (okay not me, not you but certainly the mass media) look to these characters, Baker and O’Connor, the ones who helped push GWB into office in 2000, with “bated breath” for answers. Those were the two voices most prominent in the TV news clips ( along with Hamilton’s).

    The ROS discussion left me depressed… and I think I heard Chris say “oy” at the end.

  • cyberotter

    All of you have made some very interesting points and valid arguments, but alas I do not believe many of you are talking to Iraqi citizens and paying much attention to what is being reported in regional newspapers. In my humble opinion the III Act has already closed and the production known as Iraqi Freedom is over. It matters not what the next step or next mission will be by the American military. Reports and alterations in tactics will not influence the region into stability. In 1999 GWB made his decision to fundamentally alter the political structure in the Eurasian Peninsula. After 9-11 the loaded gun was handed to the President and he used it to fulfill his destiny. Remember this man will not change his approach even if it comes down to his wife and Barney being his only supporters. The reason I mention this is most Arab citizens in the region understand, almost better than most Americans, that it is up to them to get out of this mess. Our government will not solve this problem. Here are some opinions of local denizens that reflect this line of thinking.

    Riverbend: “It’s not about the man- presidents come and go, governments come and go. It’s the frustration of feeling like the whole country and every single Iraqi inside and outside of Iraq is at the mercy of American politics. It is the rage of feeling like a mere chess piece to be moved back and forth at will. It is the aggravation of having a government so blind and uncaring about their peoples needs that they don’t even feel like it’s necessary to go through the motions or put up an act. And it’s the deaths. The thousands of dead and dying, with Bush sitting there smirking and lying about progress and winning in a country where every single Iraqi outside of the Green Zone is losing.”

    In The Middle: “We all know there’s a need to change course in Iraq, but the new course will not be any better if it is based on more unilateral decisions. The U.S. should learn from Israel’s failed unilateral approaches to its conflicts with the Lebanese and the Palestinians. The only way out of Iraq will not be through more military and political unilateral solutions; it will be through giving Iraqis the time and space they need to rule their own country by themselves, and to take their own decisions when it comes to keeping their country’s unity and sovereignty.”

    Iraq The Model: “Now, our real problem in Iraq is that we do not have leaderships with patriotic agendas and like we said many times in previous postings; these leaderships that work according to partisan and regional-foreign agendas are the main cause of trouble because they are in power and they would not easily abandon the agendas of their masters and regional supporters and they will remain an obstacle in the face of building the state.

    The bitter fact is; it was us who brought them to power and gave them legitimacy through elections. But…regret is useless now.

    I believe that America would like to see Iraq emerge as a model for the region and is working hard to find a way to solve the current crisis. But that cannot be done without having a cooperative Iraqi partner on the ground who shares similar views for Iraq and the Middle East. And that’s the point; that partner does not exist, at least not in the government.”

    As you can read, these individuals understand that reports like the Baker Hamilton will have little to no affect in solving this issue regardless of what Act of the play we are in. Iraqi’s also understand that the withdraw of al-Sadyr’s Shiia party from the government signals a drastic change in Maliki’s power in the region. AlArab AlYawm, one of Jordan’s three major daily newspapers had a piece written by Mr. Jihad Al-Rantisi that sheds some light on side deals being made on behalf of the Maliki government.

    “Mr. Saleh Al-Mutlaq, the head of the national dialogue front, told “Al-arab Al-Yaum” that the national salvation front that will be announced soon will include the national dialogue front, the national Iraqi list led by allawi, the reconciliation and liberation front led by meshaan aljuburi, and the Sadr movement.

    Mr. Almutlaq added that the new front will include a number of groups that are not participating in the current Iraqi government including Baathists, pan-arabists, the Founding Conference that includes 46 political movements, the old Iraqi army leadership, and tribal leaders from the middle and south of Iraq. In addition, the front will include representatives from Turcoman, Yazidi, and Kurdish patriotic leaders who are against the occupation and for Iraq’s unity, and other Christian movements that believe in Iraq’s unity.

    Mr. Al-Mutlaq added that the national salvation government will be supported by 7 religious leaders who hold the Ayatollah title, including Al-Baghdadi, Al-Yaqoubi, Al-Muayad, Al-Maleki, Al-Sarkhi, and Al-Khalisi.

    The Iraqi Muslim Scholars association will have representatives in the front as well, according to mr. almutlaq.”

    None of us should be surprised the Maliki is courting the religious leaders of the region, himself being a respected member of the Dawa party. We removed a secular government in favor for a more Islamic based leadership. Now the religious leaders will make their own form of governance and the US will face more criticism internationally for helping form this National Salvation Front. I am sure no one will bring up the Syrians, Romanians or Korea as prime examples of this type of government, but I bet the rest of the Arab region will remember. So let the talking heads of this administration babble on, they know and we should know, that they are no longer in control of anything in the region.

  • plnelson

    cyberotter sez “All of you have made some very interesting points and valid arguments, but alas I do not believe many of you are talking to Iraqi citizens “

    Why do you say “alas”?

    Most of us here are saying that the Baker plan has no more chance of success than the ones that came before it, that Bush is an idiot, and there is no likely route to success in “Iraq”. And that seems to be exactly what your quotes were saying, so apparently we don’t NEED to hear from Iraqi citizens to come to these conclusions!

    BTW, on a semantic/philosophical note I question your use of the term “Iraqi citizen”. That would imply that there is an actual, organized political entity called “Iraq”. But it has long been my contention that “Iraq” is just a geographical expression like “the Alps” or “central Asia”. Iraq is just another place like many in the world where conquering or colonial powers drew some lines on a map for their own administrative, diplomatic, or military convenience without regard for whether the people inside those lines had any intrinsic possibility of nationhood.

    We need to disabuse ourselves of the idea that Iraq has what it takes to become a nation, or at least examine that assumption. All the discussions I’ve heard on the dangers and risks of partition fail to even discuss or question the other side to that coin, which is the basic assumption that Iraq can ever be a real nation or that the Iraqis will ever think of themselves as Iraqi’s first, and Kurds or Sunnis, etc, second. It’s a lot like Yugoslavia or the USSR where the “nation” merely existed because some strongman and his army held it together with force and tyranny.

    ROS needs to do a program on the concept of nationhood – what are the prerequisites for actually being a nation and how do you know when you have them?

  • loki

    I agree-what is the concept of nationhood. It seemed that “Irag” was cobbled together after the WWI and the fall of the ottoman empire. Also, a good show would be from the military point of view: do we have a military concept-the new military intellectuals? Do we include “the contractors” with our troop strength?

    Black ops-how many? What does it do to ournationhood when we relie on Bl;ack Opps and “contractors”the fight “our”wars. Did the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group address adequately our national ignorance of the middle east?

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  • Tom B

    The ‘elephant in the room’ is the belief (faith?) that knowledge and ‘the right decisions’ will change the outcomes underway in the Middle East. But this overlooks the basic problem: the United States government is demonstrably unable to either absorb information or to implement the obvious. The Iraq situation is simply Katrina writ large on a foreign canvas… Also, it is interesting how many people refer to the paralyzed bureaucracy rooted on the banks of the Potomac as ‘us’ or ‘we’ — when the proper word would seem to be either ‘it’ or ‘they’. The question for folks both across the North American continent and overseas is simply, ‘How do we survive and prosper as the politicians and their armies clash?’ And despite frequent statements that ‘we’ (again!) are all affected by how Iraq comes out, my question is ‘how am I going to be affected by this Greek tragedy?’ I live far from Washington; I am not a federal employee; I am not a mercenary in the U.S. Army; and I am not an Iraqi… How are me and my family involved in Bush’s unfortunate war, regardless of how it comes out? The only answer I can come up with is that a full-blown war in the Middle East would result in higher gasoline prices…. and possibly a recession. I’m old enough to have been through several oil shortages and many recessions. So SOMEONE, explain to me why I should care if Bush’s Adventure results in catastrophe halfway around the world… Please!

  • plnelson

    Running a little low on imagination, Tom B wonders “How are me and my family involved in Bush’s unfortunate war, regardless of how it comes out? The only answer I can come up with is that a full-blown war in the Middle East would result in higher gasoline prices…”

    lessee . . .

    We don’t get gasoline from the mideast; we get OIL. So, since we live in an economy addicted to oil, what happens when oil prices go up? Recession, inflation, unemployment, switch to dirtier fuels like coal, resulting in more pollution.

    If we get in a military catastrophe “halfway around the world” you or your wife or kids get drafted sent into some stupid war to be maimed or killed. Your taxes get used to pay for it.

    If it results in increased terrorism or bolder terrorists, the government responds by more draconian security measures at home.

    I can think of all kinds of ways that stupid foreign policy tricks can have domestic side effects.