Monday, December 31, 2007

The War in Iraq: Still a Dazzling Failure

According to Michael Barone,

"there are lessons to be learned from the dazzling success of the surge strategy in Iraq."

And the first of those lessons is that the American occupation of Iraq is still a "dazzling failure."

Even though everything broke right for Gen. David Petraeus at the beginning of the surge campaign, the American military has made little progress. Several sectors of Iraqi society decided to back away from the Hobbesian inferno just as the additional American troops began to arrive. Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province changed to sides after they figured out that al-Qaida in Iraq wanted to replace them too. On the Shiite side, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and the leadership of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq started to cooperate with the Americans after they saw that they were losing out to Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. They even dropped the "Revolution" from their title. Al-Sadr himself decided to stand down after he saw his 80,000 man militia become a vehicle for Shiite infighting and organized crime.

In other words, the United States faces no major military opposition in Iraq.

But they aren't getting anywhere with the occupation either. The central Iraqi government hasn't even passed the token "reconciliation" legislation that the Bush administration has been seeking. More important, the Iraqi government is still non-functional outside the Green Zone and not particularly secure inside the Green Zone. Iraqi ministries don't have the reach needed to perform their functions. The Iraqi government has almost no presence in Anbar and it does not control the Iraqi Army or the Iraqi police. Barone boasts about building Iraq from the bottom up, but it takes enormous effort for local Iraqi leadership and the American military to perform even simple tasks like fixing a door in Fallujah.

Even worse, Iraq has become a haven for the efforts of Islamic fundamentalists to produce religious paradise on the local level. Far from extending the modern, secular elements that had emerged during the Baath Party era, the American occupation of Iraq has resulted in increasing religious control. Even without al-Qaeda, Sunni Iraqis have turned their areas into little Taliban enclaves while Shiites have created little Irans in their territory. The pervasive fundamentalism has had an especially destructive impact on women who are assassinated for exercising professional skills and burned to death on suspicion of adultery or pre-marital sex.

According to Mark Latimer of Guardian Unlimited:
"In many cases the woman is accused of adultery, or of a relationship before she is married, or the marriage is not sanctioned by the family," Khanim says. Her husband, brother or another relative will kill her to restore their "honour". "If he is poor the man might be arrested; if he is important, he won't be. And in most cases, it is hidden. The body might be dumped miles away and when it is found the family says, 'We don't have a daughter.'" In other cases, disputes over such murders are resolved between families or tribes by the payment of a forfeit, or the gift of another woman. "The authorities say such agreements are necessary for social stability, to prevent revenge killings," says Khanim.

All of the developments connected with surge have resulted in what could be called a "frozen state of anarchy." There's been no reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis and no reconciliation of Shiite and Sunni factions among themselves. Another civil inferno could erupt at any time. Likewise, when local areas achieve some stability, the first thing that local leaders do is institute a Muslim fundamentalist regime that weighs most heavily on women.

The American occupation of Iraq is not just a failure. It's a dazzling failure.

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