The fantasy of International help in Iraq (update) Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Right now, the Senate sleep-in is essentially about this provision of an amendment on Iraq. Again we see this unfounded obsession with the "international community" and the UN as solutions to the problems in Iraq.
(b) Implementation of Reduction as Part of Comprehensive Strategy.—The reduction of forces required by this section shall be implemented as part of a comprehensive diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq’s neighbors and the international community for the purpose of working collectively to bring stability to Iraq. As part of this effort, the President shall direct the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the United Nations to seek the appointment of an international mediator in Iraq, under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, who has the authority of the international community to engage political, religious, ethnic, and tribal leaders in Iraq in an inclusive political process.
Well let's look at the latest effort of the international community, shall we: Darfur. Oops ... let's not.
I know, let's look at Afghanistan instead, OK? It is actually a wonderful example of international cooperation through NATO (which is better than the UN, right?). How's that going?
Defence Secretary Des Browne has said UK-led Nato forces are facing "problems" in Afghanistan but there was no question of troops being pulled out.
He warned it would be a "potential nightmare" for the west if Afghanistan was allowed to become a terrorist "training ground" as it was before.
Mr Browne was responding to a report by a committee of MPs which called on Nato countries to commit more troops.
It highlighted equipment shortages and fears the Taleban are gaining strength.
But its main focus was troop numbers, with MPs saying they were "deeply concerned" that some member countries were reluctant to contribute troops.
What? We all know, to include the international community, that Afghanistan is the 'good war'. The righteous war. The international community, through NATO, supports it, right?
The Commons defence committee said the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) was still two battalions short of the requirement set by Nato commanders.
Other problems identified in the wide-ranging report include a lack of training for Afghan police and an unclear policy on eradicating the country's opium poppy fields.
Yes, this is the sort of crew who supposedly would bring resolution to Iraq.
In its report, the committee said some Nato members were continuing to impose restrictions on where their troops could operate.
Isaf currently has almost 37,000 troops in Afghanistan, but a far larger force - backed by increased development aid - was needed to stabilise the country, it added.
The report said: "We remain deeply concerned that the reluctance of some Nato members to provide troops for the Isaf mission is undermining Nato's credibility and also Isaf operations."
James Arbuthnot, the committee's chairman, said Nato countries all had their own national reasons for not giving the same levels of commitment.
Heh ... although this is a very serious point, you almost have to laugh at the naive faith some place in the "international community" and it's ability to do anything well, or in the case of Darfur, anything at all.
And just as graphic reminder of this international effort in Afghanistan, a map:
Anyone? Where are the most dangerous zones in Afghanistan? And who is there (for those of you who are unsure, it's the UK, US and Canada)? Yet somehow the others represented on the map with their tiny and restricted contingents of troops will somehow do what the US can't do in Iraq?
I don't think so.
UPDATE: More on how well the international community, in the guise of NATO, is doing in Afghanistan:
NATO countries have still not manned the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to promised levels, the commander of the force said here today.
U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill said he does not have promised critical capabilities. "NATO has not manned this force to the level it said it would man it," he said.
The general said the command is short on "helicopters, maneuver troops, aeromedical evacuation, some medical, and some intelligence apparatus."
When NATO assumed control of security operations in Afghanistan, the United States provided a "bridging force" with these assets until NATO forces could arrive. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates later extended the stay of the bridging force for six months. "We would be in a lot — a lot — more difficult position without the bridging force," McNeill said.
"In the meantime, there are five to seven countries that could contribute more helicopters but, to date, have not done so. We have proposed that perhaps if we are not going to get helicopters from member nations that they should put money up and we could hire local indigenous helicopters, not to move NATO soldiers, but cargo," he said.
To an extent that is already happening with U.S. funding in Regional Command East, but the same capability is needed in Regional Command South.
In addition, the general said he is short four battalions of maneuver troops. The British have said they will place a battalion in the south by the end of the year, but this doesn't help the situation today. "We're an interim force here to be sure," he said. "We're here to buy the Afghan national security forces the space and time needed to take responsibility for their own nation."
The last time we were in Iraq in an Internation Effort, wasn’t it ~85% US troops anyway?
And when you consider an international force is going lose efficiency from having to co-ordinate different operating procedures and lose even more efficiency when that co-ordination breaks down, I wonder how many extra troops we had in that 85% to offset that loss.
One can’t criticize the international community for things like Darfur without at the same time criticizing the US. Also, when people talk about internationalizing the Iraq problem that is not focused on military intervention. Military involvement by countries in Europe and elsewhere is NOT what Iraq needs! There is no military solution to Iraq’s problems, if there were, the US would have achieved it by now.
You seem to be assuming that the US can do this alone — can bring stability to Iraq. Many of us are convinced it can’t. Moreover, many of us understand that the best way to avoid breakdown in Iraq when we leave (and we will start pulling out next year) is to try to create an interest in the region for states to want to help stabilize Iraq. That is primarily economic and political help, not military force. I’ve written quite a bit about the difficulties and possibilities given the geopolitics of the region — and it may well be that the surge helps us achieve this. But using example of military interventions to argue against internationalization misses the point completely — that’s not what is required.
Bottom line: America is not capable of creating political and economic stability in Iraq, and is not capable of preventing mass atrocities (the number of dead Iraqis this month is way up) if Iraqis are intent on doing that. We simply don’t have that capacity, and the effort to do so drains our resources, continues to divide our society, and overstretches the military. The only possible way to prevent a future catastrophe in Iraq is through an international effort. And if you get past simply looking at military intervention, international cooperation has worked quite often in a variety of places. To simply ridicule the rest of the world and assume that we can fix Iraq is not only a poor argument, but rests on meager evidence. Until you deal with those issues, you have an emotional "anti-internationalist" appeal, but not really anything meaningful.
The only possible way to prevent a future catastrophe in Iraq is through an international effort.
And you previously stated:
. . create an interest in the region for states to want to help stabilize Iraq. That is primarily economic and political help, not military force.
So, how are you going to do this? Who is going to step up to the plate and What are they going to do when they get there? I do not see the international community doing squat for anybody, Darfur or Iraq, that does not entail the use of 85% US involvement - and virtually 100% of the heavy lifting (meaning no disrespect to our British/Canadian/Austrailian allies).
I seriously want to hear a definitive solution, a defensible solution, something of merit because I have not seen nor has anyone presented anything of value to the debate. And, as a cautionary note, I do not want to see a whole lot of tap dancing and Pie-in-the-sky fantasizing. So, help us out here. Put some meat on these bones you keep throwing into the debate. Lay it out.
One can’t criticize the international community for things like Darfur without at the same time criticizing the US.
Why not, Boris? You go on to write about how thinly stretched our resources are. What’s wrong with the "international community" that it can’t step up and prevent genocide in a third world country? You’re not trying to say that the U.S. is required to lead, are you? Because you effervesce with concern and hand-wringing whenever that happens.
Bottom line: America is not capable of creating political and economic stability in Iraq,
Yet, in every instance where it does so — like, for instance, in most of Iraq outside of the Baghdad region — you pretend not to notice, like a dog offered a piece of fruit.
You’ve never acknowledged the political developments, either. The only thing that you ever pay attention to is tomorrow’s car bombing. That car bombing is meant to attract you, impress you, and be used by you, and you never ever let your allies down.
and is not capable of preventing mass atrocities (the number of dead Iraqis this month is way up)
Really, Boris? Why don’t you cite the stats on that.
if Iraqis are intent on doing that. We simply don’t have that capacity, and the effort to do so drains our resources, continues to divide our society, and overstretches the military.
If our society is divided, and you’re on the other side of the divide from me, then I’ll be grateful for the war in Iraq for that alone.
Our resources are stretched so thin that the federal budget deficits are now below the recent historical average as a percentage of GDP. During a war.
"We don’t have the capacity?" Don’t you mean that you don’t have the capacity to think clearly?
"...overstretches the military?" What would you have been saying during WWII, Boris? I mean, do you have any idea how ahistorical and foolish your standard nonsense is?
It must be stirring to watch how much you depend on the total ignorance of the students in your classes when you spout this blather to them.
What was it that I once called you, the Dairy Queen Ward Churchill, or something like that?
Major General Rick Lynch, commanding 15,000 American and about 7,000 Iraqi troops on Baghdad’s southern approaches, spoke more forcefully than any American commander to date in urging that the so-called troop surge ordered by President George W. Bush continue into the spring of 2008. That would match the deadline of March 31 set by the Pentagon, which has said that limits on American troops available for deployment will force an end to the increase by then.
Here is a google search on military overstretch — as you can see this is being discussed a lot. I had wanted to quote directly from an article I read but haven’t been able to find it — I’ll keep looking. Essentially the point was that the surge in Iraq has really left few options for the US if troops are needed elsewhere. Rather than give you links to blogs and opinions obviously opposing the war that talk about how overstretched the army is, here is an article from Army Times. Gates says "stretched" rather than overstretched, but, well, the article makes pretty clear that there are problems.
I gave you dates when I talk on my blog about how to internationalize the situation in Iraq. Essentially it boils down to this: a chaotic Iraq does not serve the interests of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Jordan. The only reason they promote chaos there now is that it does serve their interest to keep America pinned down and unable to act. If we leave, we can leave in a way that provides them incentive to act — Sunni states work to help stabilize Sunni regions, and to fight al qaeda. Iran will be close to Shi’ite regions in Iraq, but there will be continued Arab-Persian splits. The Saudis and Iranians will find it in their interest to cooperate to avoid a regional war that violence in Iraq could ignite. As long as we try to create an Iraq that serves our interests, the more we work against regional powers playing a constructive role, and the more likely it is that Iraq will end up in intense violence. Moreover, how we leave can limit any damage done to US interests by the Iraq fiasco by setting up the potential for regional stability.
I actually think that’s the path the Bush Administration is starting to explore, they’re talking with Iran, promoting a new initiative for a two state solution in the Israel-Palestine situation, and if you watch the diplomacy I am convinced that the Bush administration sees the surge as necessary to set up an international/regional solution that can work.
Ed Koch, who has been a strong war supporter, apparently is changing his mind. I disagree with a large portion of his analysis, and his belief we’ll be facing major battles in the West, but he does make one really important point:
Fourth, we will restore our deterrence with Iran. Tehran will no longer be able to bleed us through its proxies in Iraq, and we will be much freer to hit Iran - should we ever need to - once we’re out. Moreover, Iran will by default inherit management of the mess in southern Iraq, which, in time, will be an enormous problem for Tehran."
I don’t think we’ll be in a strong position to "hit" Iran, but the situation now has one prime beneficiary: Iran.
Here is a google search on military overstretch — as you can see this is being discussed a lot. I had wanted to quote directly from an article I read but haven’t been able to find it — I’ll keep looking.
Here is a concept on troop strength: When your current troop strength is stretched, you increase your troop strength. Is that too terribly difficult to understand? The fact that current troop strength is being squeezed isn’t some sort of cosmic limit on American forces; it can be increased.
After cutting approximately half of our divisions in the 1990s, surely one can imagine how some of that can be restored, as needed. Unless of course the Democrats, after whining about "overstretch," are not prepared to do something about it other than surrender.
More from Boris:
Ed Koch, who has been a strong war supporter, apparently is changing his mind.
Big deal. What’s that got to do with anything other than that he’s a big Hillary supporter and is re-orienting himself for ’08?
Well let’s look at the latest effort of the international community, shall we: Darfur. Oops ... let’s not.
I know, let’s look at Afghanistan instead, OK? It is actually a wonderful example of international cooperation through NATO (which is better than the UN, right?). How’s that going?
Just for a change lets look at Iraq. Iraq is subject of a foriegn insurgency by Al Qaeda sympathetic jihadi, 50% of whom come from Saudi Arabia. These insurgents carry out suicide bombings targeting civilian Iraqi Shia and occupying military personel. The insurgents are a major distabilising force in the country. With 50% of them coming from Saudi it would seem reasonable for pressure to be strongly applied to Saudi, however this cannot be done because the USA & UK have strong alliances with Saudi.
Question that any "international" asks itself before intervention - Is it worthwhile to send troops to assist the occupying powers knowing that some of those toops will be killed by citizens of a country the occupiers insist on protecting or is it better to see what develops? So far everybody is waiting.
Erb, I have to differ with you on your interpetation of the general’s comments. There is a big difference between "stretched" and "overstretched". As far as how it is being discussed, I could care less what Democratic poiliticians are saying in order to curry favor with their Daisy Kos overlords or Republicans who are facing re-election jitters.
The current rotation plan allows for a set program of deployment, redeployment, rest & refit, training up, and then deploy again. A simple fix on the military being "overstretched" as you would say is to institute the same policy set by Schwartzenegger in Desert Strom I - Nobody goes home til the job is done! I am not advocating such a position, I merely point out the alternative.
There is even talk of increasing the surge troop strength. By how much? No numbers have been stated to my knowledge. Additionally, the Pentagon was talking about being able to maintain 120,000 troops in country until 2010 and beyond. Nowhere in those discussions was there talk about the military being "overstretched".
As far as your "international" plan goes:
Essentially it boils down to this: a chaotic Iraq does not serve the interests of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Jordan.
By what crystal ball do you have at your disposal gives you the insight as to what is or is not in the best interests of those four countries. Syria and Iran have had adversarial relationships with Iraq for generations. They could care less what kind of chaos exists within Iraq, unless it is as a client state to their wishes and US dominance in the country is destroyed. Saudi Arabia could care less what happens in Iraq - Iraq being a main competitor on the world oil market - so long as the Sunni population is not put to the torch - and that is more from an internal security perspective within their own country than any other factor. And Jordan doesn’t even come into the discussion for any reason whatsoever - old Hussein took his country off the world stage when he stood up for Sadaam during DS1.
Bottom line: America is not capable of creating political and economic stability in Iraq
I disagree. There can be no international plan worthy of mention without the US being the major influence and partner in the plan. Show me one major international effort that has been successful - anywhere since 1945 - that has not had the major player being the US.
I agree that for a long term solution, there needs to be some level of international support for the fledgling Iraqi government above and beyond what the world has offerred to date. But if those "players" you list are the lynchpins by which you base your "international" plan, then you need to go back to the drawing board. Notice, I do not ridicule your position. I merely point out a significant hole in it.
I’m bailing out. I will no longer defend the policy of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq...
But concludes with:
I believe we can be out of Iraq in a few months if we want to leave...
We should prepare for the battles that will take place on American soil by the Islamic forces of terror who are engaged in a war that will be waged by them against Western civilization for at least the next 30 years...
Wake up, America.
Far be it from me to attribute the former Mayor of New York City with a fine sense of irony — but still...
What sort of commitments from foreign governments does this strategy have? I hear NOTHING from the Europeans saying they would offer any support to this strategy. And Erb keeps saying that the UN and our allies will solve the problem by some vague strategic hand-waving:
"The only possible way to prevent a future catastrophe in Iraq is through an international effort. And if you get past simply looking at military intervention, international cooperation has worked quite often in a variety of places."
Is this like Oliver Willis and his line that we should "focus" on Pakistan?
These words have no real meaning, you know. Are we talking about a big conference in Jordan, Vienna, or Dubai? Will the UN send some letters? When we have the first 1,000 casualty day in Iraq’s ethnic cleansing/civil war as we leave, what exactly are the "cooperation" actions the Europeans will take to fix the problem?
You, Bush is rightly criticized for poor planning, especially of the aftermath of the initial war. Two wrongs don’t make a right and those who support withdrawl are not showing any better planning skills. Even those who are talking about splitting Iraq into three sections need to remember that there are tons of mixed areas and there will be serious ethnic cleansing happen - people are not going to willingly go into neat little enclaves without a fight.
p.s. My litmus test for this approach will be the "you forgot Poland" test. Bush at least got Poland to back his plan. Let’s see if Pelosi can get anyone to step up for this one? I’m guessing the plan in Europe is to let us take all the blame (and why shouldn’t we) and hunker down.
Also, the idea that withdrawing US troops from Iraq will end up with less violence has already been pre-tested by Gen. Abizaid who thought US troops were like antibodies in the Iraqi society and kept us in huge FOBs. Result? Ethnic cleansing and civil war.
I think that most people who support withdrawl just want to wash their hands of it - and they know that it will fade from their front pages once no Americans are being killed. Which is fine if its somewhere like Somalia with little strategic value.
Final prediction: all of the supporters of withdrawl who claim we will keep forces in the area to "hunt al Qaeda" will quietly jump ship on that too, once they have achieved their goal of withdrawl. They will then move to full withdrawl with no ground raids into Iraq. (Credit to Erb, I have never heard him say anything about hunting Al Qaeda after we leave - that’s a Dem talking point, I guess.)
Harun, I have not said that "the UN and our allies" will solve the problems through "strategic hand waving." I have said that it will be tough work to play interests against each other in the region to get a regional solution. The UN and our allies are secondary, the primary actors are Iraq’s many neighbors. Shi’ite, Sunni, Arab, Persian, extremist, conservative, modernizing...there are numerous rifts and divisions but: 1) they don’t want regional war; 2) most don’t want a strong US presence in the region or Iraq; and 3) they have the ability to help stablize Iraq. Moreover, just about everyone (government) opposes al qaeda. The most important won’t do number 3 if they can instead weaken the US by supporting militias and/or insurgent groups. So the US has to make clear we will not seek (and show by actions) a long term strategic presence in Iraq, except (if there is partition or confederation) in "Kurdistan." A lot of what will happen will simply follow the interests of the regional players; our role can be to make our departure set up a situation where the regional players won’t miscalculate and cause a war. You know we’re going to start withdrawing next year. It’s not a question of if or even when, but how. The only solution possible is some kind of regional or international effort; it may fail, but there is nothing else feasible. So given those constraints, we have to think about how we are going to leave, and how we deal with other powers in the region. And, frankly, I think the Bush Adminstration already accepts that.
The point of McQ’s post was to question the veracity of an international effort as the fallback for any solution in Iraq. If there can be any example in today’s world, Afghanistan should be foremost. Translate the problems seen there to Iraq and the internationalization of the Iraq situation becomes laughable.
Scott, you have promoted your usual suspects (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan) as the centerpiece of your idea for the internationalization of Iraq and there seems to be a measure of skeptiscm on my and others part on the utility of your approach. But rather than address our reservations you continue with your litany:
The UN and our allies are secondary, the primary actors are Iraq’s many neighbors. Shi’ite, Sunni, Arab, Persian, extremist, conservative, modernizing...there are numerous rifts and divisions but: 1) they don’t want regional war; 2) most don’t want a strong US presence in the region or Iraq; and 3) they have the ability to help stablize Iraq.
The question here is not whether they have the ability but what is in their best interests. From a logical perspective, yes, it should be in their best interest but if the recent past has taught us anything at all it is to show us that "reasonable" is not part of the lexicon in the region.
And if "partition" is your only alternative to internationalization, that becomes a non-starter from the very beginning. Why? Turkey and Kurdistan. Boom - Regional war kicks off almost immediately and the tinder is already there for the conflagration to spread.
Nothing else feasible? Yes there is one feasible alternative available but it requires a continued, if somewhat reduced, US presence. Without that, there is no solution because there is no single or multiple trusted international players that will step up to the plate.
As I said before:
I agree that for a long term solution, there needs to be some level of international support for the fledgling Iraqi government above and beyond what the world has offerred to date.
Why would any other country or countries step in when we are stepping away? Without continued US involvement, the rest of the world could give a sh*t!
"The UN and our allies are secondary, the primary actors are Iraq’s many neighbors. Shi’ite, Sunni, Arab, Persian, extremist, conservative, modernizing..."
Okay that clears up a lot: Iran/Syria/Saudi
"there are numerous rifts and divisions but: 1) they don’t want regional war"
Iran & Syria are allies and have been since the 1979! I doubt they are worried about a war between themselves. Maybe they can have a photo-op "link up" in Baghdad, though. A weak, divided Iraq would be fine by them. Using it as a terrorist training ground with excellent deniability (Bush caused it) would be even better.
"2) most don’t want a strong US presence in the region or Iraq."
Except Saudi Arabia, and you don’t think this plan, relying on Iran and Syria, might cause them to worry a bit?
"3) they have the ability to help stablize Iraq."
Do they? Could Russia have stopped the Serbs? Can we stop Israel? Sure, they can help destabilize it easily, but putting humpty dumpty back might be harder than you think. I suspect the insurgency that is religiously oriented won’t stop anyways- and the insurgency that is IRAQI BAATH NATIONALISTS won’t like being controlled by Iranians and Syrians either. P.s. Syrian Baath party was at the throats of the Iraqi Baath party for decades including during the Iran-Iraq war where Syria backed Iran....
"Moreover, just about everyone (government) opposes al qaeda."
Wait, if Syria opposes Al Qaeda, how come they help ship suicide bombers into Iraq for them? If Saudi hates Al Qaeda how come Saudi funding (private) means now that AQI is the BEST funded group in Iraq? Granted, MAYBE Syria could turn of the tap if they so desired, but I don’t think Saudi can do much more than they are doing.
"The most important won’t do number 3 if they can instead weaken the US by supporting militias and/or insurgent groups."
This is the big assumption. Keep in mind that Syria and Iran both keep militias going in Lebanon and Gaza. If we leave Iraq, won’t they simply see a power vacuum and fill it? This is far, far worse a result than an unified Iraqi state muddling through. Do you really want to have Iraq become Lebanon, with non-state militias as terror breeding grounds?
"So the US has to make clear we will not seek (and show by actions) a long term strategic presence in Iraq, except (if there is partition or confederation) in "Kurdistan."
Yes, an independent Kurdistan is no threat to Iran, Syria, or Turkey, who all have Kurdish regions. That’s why I don’t buy the re-deploy to Kurdistan line. Two out of three of the parties this strategy depend on also have problems with their Kurdish minorities and the Turks even more so.
For me to even consider this idea, I would need to see major, major serious signals from Syria and Iran about this. Hmmm, didn’t we hold some meetings with them? Anything worthwhile occur?
SShiell: Turkey and Kurdistan in war if US forces are in Kurdistan, and the EU and NATO leans on Turkey? It’s possible but by no means a sure thing. Still, that is a danger that has to be considered.
You also seem to ignore TINA. There Is No Alternative. We are not going to stay long in Iraq, next year we’ll start to remove troops, and public pressure at home essentially means it’s impossible to imagine the US remaining with the strength to enforce stability. So as skeptical as one rightly can be about the regional balance of power operating effectively, that’s almost certainly what we’re going to have to rely on.
Other countries will act out of self-interest. We have a capacity to help make it in the interests of other states to see a stable Iraq. No guarantees, no quick fixes, but the belief in a simple, quick, and relatively painless "liberation" of Iraq followed by Iraqi oil paying for reconstruction got us into this mess. It’s more realistic to recognize that there may be no solution, but we can still try. But we have to act in our interests first, and staying in Iraq is increasingly detrimental to American interests (though, as noted, we don’t have to leave completely, depending on the situation).