Meta-Blog

SEARCH QandO

Email:
Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock
MichaelW

BLOGROLL QandO

 
 
Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
 
 
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News
Politics
Business
Science
Technology
Health
Entertainment
Sports
Opinion/Editorial

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict

Blogging

Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links

Regional

Regional News

Publications

News Publications

 
Victory in Iraq depends on the Institutions, not our "political will"
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, June 07, 2006

There's a common pro-war pundit argument that the ultimate success or failure of Iraq will depend on our will to win — on a sort of political intestinal fortitude to see it through. Naturally, there's some merit to this view. If our strategy is pushing Iraq in the right direction, then quitting prematurely could be fatal. On the other hand, it's also possible to stick to a losing strategy, or to confuse perserverance for strategy.

But the time for political will may have passed already, and I think some comparisons with Vietnam may be apt.

At this point, there is no chance that the insurgents will be capable of challenging the Iraqi government. It may be of academic or tactical interest to discuss al Qaeda in Iraq and foreign or domestic anti-US insurgents, but they are no longer serious players in the grand strategy. Our strategy has succeeded insofar as we've managed to take the fight into the political realm. The "Iraqi nightmare" that David Ignatius says "America seems powerless to stop" is largely a product of internecine political struggles.

If the goal is a stable, roughly democratic Iraq, then the danger at this point is institutional. And, as Max Borders notes in TCS Daily, institution-building is risky...
Iraq, then, may not turn out as we hope. If what the US military and its postwar reconstruction partners hope to achieve is institutional transplantation, then we will have to expect that, sometimes, a host will reject the transplant. [...] [I]nformal institutions (culture, religion, believes, mores, etc.) may not be at a stage in which the populace is ready to accept a new system of formal rules.
...and all of our good intentions and political perserverance cannot create the institutional character required for a stable democracy. Only Iraqis can do that. Whether they will or not isn't really about our "will" any longer. It's about their will.

At this point, there's relatively little that US forces can do beyond simply training and supporting Iraqi security forces. When we withdraw is far less important now than how and why we withdraw. Consider the Vietnam war.

Our late-60s strategy — "Vietnamization" — is similar to the "as they stand up, we will stand down" strategy the administration has employed in Iraq. And to a large degree, it was actually working in Vietnam. The mistake the US made was not to leave Vietnam, per se. Our mistake was that we did not continue to support the South Vietnamese we once thought were worth our blood and treasure. As former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird wrote in Foreign Affairs...
The truth about Vietnam that revisionist historians conveniently forget is that the United States had not lost when we withdrew in 1973. In fact, we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory two years later when Congress cut off the funding for South Vietnam that had allowed it to continue to fight on its own.

Whether the United States largely withdraws from Iraq in 2007, 2008 or 2009 is less significant than what we do after that. Withdrawal does not make Iraq another Vietnam, nor does advocating withdrawal make a politician a coward. Withdrawal is a necessary precursor to success.

Far more significant than our strategy, though, are the current Iraqi institutions. The future holds one of three outcomes:

  • Iraqi institutions will gradually come to reflect a democratic, pluralistic Iraqi government.


  • Iraqi insitutions will be captured by sectarian political interests, operating on behalf of powerful interests rather than a pluralistic government.


  • An Iraqi institution will become more powerful than its countervailing powers, leading to civil war and/or assertion of military control of the government.


It bodes well for us that Prime Minister al-Maliki is proposing Iraq "take over security from U.S.-led forces within 18 months". The question is not so much whether Iraqi forces can take over in 18 months, and it's certainly not whether we have sufficient political will to see it through. Success or failure in Iraq will depend upon the character of the Iraqi institutions that eventually take over. There is little that US forces can do about that.
 
TrackBacks
Return to Main Blog Page
 
 

Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
If we’re going to use Vietnam comparisons, we probably ought to throw some Japan comparisons into the mix. We were there for decades, and I don’t know anybody who seriously argues that it was a failure. I don’t care for their borderline one-party rule, but they been economically successful beyond anyone’s expectation. And they are a bulwark of freedom in the Pacific theater.

One of the main reasons we’re there is that it is understood that there are potential enemies, both theirs and ours, that need to be defended against. Russia is right off their shore, with China not far away. So we’ve allied with the Japanese, even though they had a quite alien culture to ours, and it has been a roaring success.

I see numerous parallels to all that in Iraq. And it may very well be advantageous for both us and Iraq to have a presence there for an extended period, just as we did in Japan and Germany. That presence is a key to the stability that a country needs to develop democratic institutions.

Staying there beyond the more-or-less defeat of the insurgency will indeed take political will. But, if we compare the relative success/failure measures of Vietnam and Japan, which strategy is worth emulating?
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
John:

I think you’re ignoring all the civil affairs work our forces (and other DoD personnel) engage in and accomplish. It’s not just a matter of training security forces. That has as much to do with strengthening loyalty to institutions as anything else. And our continued willingness to engage in such efforts is a product of our political will.

Is Iraqi willingness to take the reins increasingly important? Obviously...but our political will to assist them in developing their new institutions remains a rather large factor.
 
Written By: Army Lawyer
URL: http://armylawyer.blogsome.com
It sounds to me as though you’d already discounted our political will, Jon. I reached that conclusion in 2003 and it’s one of the reasons that I opposed our invasion of Iraq.

It continues to be unclear to me what would constitute “victory in Iraq”. We’ve already achieved many of the objectives with which we, apparently, set out. Establishing a liberal democracy there remains elusive and absent that I don’t see much chance of viral democracy in the Middle East. Which suggests to me that, as a battle in the War on Terror, the value of the invasion of Iraq will have been limited indeed.

More than 6,000 bodyguards are being retained to protect the members of the Iraqi parliament. There are reports that 8 or more districts of Baghdad are outside the control of the central government. That doesn’t suggest to me that, regardless of the number of Iraqi military, national guard, and police trained, we’ll be leaving Iraq for the foreseeable future (let alone the next 18 months) lest the situation there descend to complete chaos.
 
Written By: Dave Schuler
URL: http://www.theglitteringeye.com
I would respectfully disagree Jon. I see the fundamental point you’re driving at, BUT you seem to act...well like a libertarian.... as if law and process were the end-all-be-alls of governance. "WILL" our will and the will of the National Government is all-important. Process and institution provide little bulwark against tyranny. Without the will or desire to resist evil, evil will NOT be resisted. It was not lack of law, institution or process that brought the Bolsheviks or Nazi’s to power, it was their Will to Power and the failure of the Kerenskii Government and Weimar Republic to effectively oppose them that led to their triumphs.

So, No Jon, WILL is all...it’s STILL a war in Iraq. An "Act of violence to compell the enemy to OUR will"-Karl Von Clausewitz. IF we come home now, we’re saying "Good Luck have fun and every man for himself." IF the Iraqi’s would rather fiddle whilst Rome burns, as has just happened in Mogadishu (in a few years expect US forces there), then Iraq will collapse into sectarian war, involving Iran, and Turkey either indirectly or directly as well.

I see your point that what government occurs is becoming important and HOW the government governs is becoming increasingly important, i.e., "Is Iraq becoming a democratic state?" and "Are Iraqi’s CAPABLE of governing a multi-ethnic state in a democratic manner?", but WILL is the key ingrediment on both sides, still...
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
WILL" our will and the will of the National Government is all-important.
No Joe, the WILL of the Iraqis to form a united nation is more important than anything else. Not our WILL and not that of the Iraqi government. Any insurgency will peter out, if it loses support of the population. What exactly is the Iraqi WILL ?? I dunno, hope the Bush administration knows
 
Written By: Ivan
URL: http://
The mistake the US made was not to leave Vietnam, per se. Our mistake was that we did not continue to support the South Vietnamese we once thought were worth our blood and treasure.
The only real mistake we made was to go into Vietnam in the first place without any intention of destroying the regime in the north and reuniting Vietnam. The North Vietnamese knew that if they could keep from being destroyed, they would eventually prevail, and this is exactly what came to pass—and what would have come to pass whether or not we financially supported South Vietnam after we left or not.

This is really, really simple kids: victory requires the total destruction of the enemy, either politically or kinetically. An enemy not destroyed lives to fight again. The only reason we won WWII and Germany and Japan are the peaceful, productive societies they are today is because during the war we slaughtered them until the remainder of their regimes unconditionally surrendered, then we went in, set up occupation governments, and hung the rest of the enemy. Peace was thus had because we ENDED the war.

This truth is no different today: wars that are not won are not ended. I don’t care where you stand with regards to the war in Iraq, we can all agree that had the Bush I administration destroyed Saddam’s regime in 1991, this war would never have happened.

In 20/20 hindsight, it is plain to see that our enemy in Iraq ran deeper than a deck of playing cards. It sucks that this enemy has been able to refigure himself and fight us to the extent that he has, but this is the reality we find ourselves in and now we have to deal with it. That is unless we want send more of our young men and women at some point in the future to fight yet another sequel to this f*cking war. When the enemy no longer controls ANY province in Iraq, and when they have either been decimated to the point that they either no longer can or are no longer willing to try to take any of them back, that’s when we will have won and Iraq’s new democratic institutions will at least have a chance of survival.

Make no mistake: it is our enemy’s will to destroy these fledgling institutions and resume power. They want it more than anything else. If we, for whatever reason, fail to destroy them, then that is exactly what will eventually happen. It doesn’t matter one bit whether we understand this fact or not, it only matters that the enemy understands, and acts accordingly.

yours/
peter.
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
Peter, I agree with your analysis here and I have to give a nod to Joe’s outlook too. Jon, although I may disagree with your opinion here, I suggest that it is representative of the vast majority of Americans. Petet’s points about ending a war through the complete decimation of the enemy are entirely correct and I think that the Vietnam analogy is appropriate for this particular point.

I suspect that the Pentagon and military leadership find themselves in the same situation as they were in the post-Tet days of Vietnam. They feel as if they have done their jobs and done them well. They have decisively defeated the enemy’s field army and dealt resounding blows to the guerrilla forces. They have made a great deal of the country secure, however they are at a loss as to why the war isn’t over and how to proceed from here. The continuance of the Iraqiazation (that may not be the proper term, but I’m continuing the Vietnam analogy here) is really the only thing that they can continue to focus on and I suspect that’s why over the last few months the "success of the new Iraqi security forces" is all that the administration and military brass have been able to talk about. They seem not to have developed a coherent strategy as to what to do next.

Flashing back to Peter’s analysis here and Jon’s idea on the will to win or at least successfully end this war, I would have to say that I concur that the total destruction of guerrilla forces (foreign and native Iraqi) and the annihilation of all active and latent terrorist cells within Iraq are probably the two biggest objectives for the military and the ones which will most likely result in a successful conclusion of this war. They will also assist in the stabilization of the new Iraqi government. The problem that I see here is that I don’t know that the military can devise a successful strategy to accomplish the above two objectives and, assuming that they do, I don’t know that America has the will to support a strategy of total annihilation. It seems that every time something as minor (and, for the record as militarily and politically incomprehensible except perhaps to the Clintonian mind) as lobbing a cruise missile or three into a foreign country occurs, certain elements are staging die-ins, professors go on strike and suggest students barricade buildings, Jimmy Carter goes on CNN to discuss the radical American imperialism, etc. If the military were to actually openly pursue a strategy of complete decimation of the enemy (World War Two style), I suspect we would see open violence in the streets of New York, San Francisco, etc. America may no longer be capable of sustaining such a stragey unless it is confronted with direct, sustained military action on its shores.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
The only real mistake we made was to go into Vietnam in the first place without any intention of destroying the regime in the north and reuniting Vietnam. The North Vietnamese knew that if they could keep from being destroyed, they would eventually prevail, and this is exactly what came to pass—and what would have come to pass whether or not we financially supported South Vietnam after we left or not.
Hogwash.

Korea.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Future victories depend on our perseverance in Iraq.

Bin Laden himself called us a Paper Tiger and that has a lot to do with our behavior in Somolia and Vietnam.

Saddam himself tried to wait us out. That’s the belief that when we see enough body bags, we’ll give up and go home. Dispelling that will make an ’insurgency’ all the less likely the next time we need to invade.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
The Poet Omar wrote:

"The continuance of the Iraqiazation (that may not be the proper term, but I’m continuing the Vietnam analogy here) is really the only thing that they can continue to focus on and I suspect that’s why over the last few months the "success of the new Iraqi security forces" is all that the administration and military brass have been able to talk about. They seem not to have developed a coherent strategy as to what to do next."
Prodcing Iraqi forces that are successful IS what to do next.

"win or at least successfully end"
A successful end IS a win.
"certain elements are staging die-ins, professors go on strike and suggest students barricade buildings, Jimmy Carter goes on CNN to discuss the radical American imperialism, etc"
They are a small enough minority they should be ignored.

"I suspect we would see open violence in the streets of New York, San Francisco, etc"
A) That won’t happen.

B) If it did, then the rebellion would and should be supressed.

Yurs, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
It bears repeating in short form, but "political will is necessary but not sufficient for victory." Also needed is a proper strategy, the capability to execute said strategy and a little luck - it can be coherently argued that we have deficiencies in all four areas.
 
Written By: Pooh
URL: http://sethyblog.blogspot.com
Tom, I hope in my heart of hearts that you are right about the far-left anti-imperial Amerikkka types being extreme minorities. Unfortunately, from my experience (and admittedly I am more involved in the war for the universities [also known as the campaign for academic freedom] than I am in general politics) they are not so small a minority and their sheer drama makes them seem an even larger minority. I could discuss their tactics all day long, but suffice it to say that with a sympathetic media they become more than simply a thorn in the side.

The stated objectives and tactics of major civil uprisings and their leaders over the past 40 years have lead to open violence in the streets of major cities. Some (not all) of these uprisings have been initiated over issues much much less dramatic than the possibility of our military openly acknowledging a strategy of total annihilation. I tentatively support such a strategy, but I suspect that there would be domestic reprecussions including open insurrection.

As to the methodology to deal with such insurrections, I’m sure we can all agree that we neither want another LA Rodney King riots situation or another Kent State.

Sorry I’m dealing with your response in reverse order here. We may have a misunderstanding regarding Iraqiazation (again I may be using an incorrect term here). I believe that it is the right thing to do "now," but I haven’t seen any semblance of a strategy for what comes next after that. Do we have an effective disengagement strategy? Or do we have an effective strategy to continue the offensive once the Iraqis are capable of patrolling and securing areas thus freeing up our troops or what? I don’t know where the military is going after successful Iraqiazation. This may simply be a matter of the administration failing to communicate its ideas, or it may just be me not researching enough. Either way I am left in some doubt and confusion about near-future strategy for Iraq.

As for a successful end being a win, this goes back to Jon’s original post here. We did have a successful end to the Vietname War, but I don’t think that it can be called a win.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://

 
Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
Name:
Email:
URL:
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Comment:
   
 
Vicious Capitalism

Divider

Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks

Divider

Divider