The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Friday, November 27, 2015
Foreign Relations/World Affairs ... Politics ...

Back in December of 2006, I posted a blog here entitled “IRAQ: WHAT TO DO“. Basically, I said that the Bush Administration should give up on the idea of a unified Iraq and split the nation into a Shia nation in the west and a Kurdish nation in the north-east, with a rump state in the west (Anbar Province) as a semi-independent Sunni nation. I say semi-independent, because I envisioned this state to be in a loose confederation with the new Kurdistan. In effect, I proposed that the Kurds would share some of their oil revenues with the Sunni state and generally “keep an eye on it” so as to prevent it from falling into terrorist hands (back then, al Qaeda . . . or more accurately, al Qaeda in Iraq . . . which was destined to later become . . . well, more on that in a moment).

But of course, a partition didn’t happen. The dream of a unified Iraq was held onto by Bush and then Obama. Iraqi President al-Maliki, under pressure from Iran, decided that US military presence was no longer needed or welcomed, and Obama was more than happy to oblige him. Starting in late 2007 and ending in 2011, the US gradually withdrew all of its previously extensive military presence in Iraq. Negotiations with Maliki on keeping a residual US force of around 10,000 troops for training and intelligence broke down when the pro-Iranian / anti-US Sadrists in Parliament blocked such an agreement. Maliki politically favored the Shia factions over the Sunnis in a variety of ways, making the central government increasingly unpopular in the western provinces.

And then, al Qadea in Iraq morphed into ISIS, the Islamic State. A dormant form of political cancer suddenly grew and metastasized, as cancers often do. Had Obama pushed back more vigorously about keeping some forces in Iraq in 2011, we probably would have seen it coming much earlier, and President Obama may have avoided the impression that the Islamic State was akin to “a jayvee team“. But such a small contingency of American troops could not have prevented the rise of ISIS, especially in the face of the refusal of the Shia-dominated Iraqi military to fight it. The only potential solution would have been to have avoided the Sunni disenfranchisement and the Yemen-like political vacuum that was created; i.e., the Sunnis should have had their own independent state (or mostly independent, under Kurdish and American tutelage). This might have prevented ISIS from finding such fertile grounds for growth.

Obviously, I wasn’t the only person who had the idea of partitioning Iraq. Then-Senator Joe Biden teamed up with foreign policy expert Leslie Gelb to publish an opinion piece in 2006 calling for a federated 3-state arrangement in Iraq that would probably have led eventually to independent Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish nations. I’m not the only person who thinks, in light of what actually happened, that now-VP Biden was right. And that I was right too!!

But, it’s too late. ISIS is a cancer that has already metastasized, and stopping it will take a whole lot more blood and money than what might have been needed had the western provinces been allied with a strong Kurd nation with a vested interest in preventing the rise of a rogue theocratic state. Sure, ISIS probably would have still have formed in Syria, but it wouldn’t have had access to the Iraqi oil fields and infrastructure that have bankrolled its rapid growth. It would have been mostly just another faction battling Assad and the other groups in the Syrian donnybrook, at least in terms of overall strength.

SO, I can now get in my “told ya so”. But unfortunately, it doesn’t matter, it won’t help. Winston Churchill was right in his warnings about the Nazi’s in Germany back in 1933, but that didn’t prevent World War 2. I hope that we won’t need another long and terrible war to stop ISIS, but . . . well, we sure could use another Churchill right now (but I’ll be darned if I see anyone even close in today’s GOP and Democratic presidential races).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:41 am      

  1. Jim, Yes, you are right. (I know you must love to hear those words.) Can you hear the “but”. . . coming? I won’t say “but” as such.

    While you are right, the ideal (I guess) thing would be to form 3 states, Kurds, Sunnis, and a Shia-Iraq. What always bothers me about this is “who” is to do the “forming” of these countries. Almost always it is presumed the West (as in Europe and the U.S.) will do this “forming” of nations.

    Yet, there’s always a problem in my mind: Who are “we” (as in Europe and the U.S.) to tell another country/countries, no matter what the problems, exactly how it/they should straighten itself/themselves out. When one thinks of it, parents can’t even tell teen-agers what to do, even though the parents may know better.

    And right here is another problem. I don’t know if what’s very wrong is my framing of the statement or the comparison I gave or both. So let me reframe my statement: Who are Western countries to summarily tell other sovereign nations what their problems are and how they should be solved.

    Yet, “we” have done it so many times, even in my 80+ years on this planet. I wonder how many times anything we’ve told another country to do has worked. I don’t know, but I doubt there are very many times we’ve been successful at it. I think in terms of land that was given after WWII to Israel so they could have a nation, after the terrible atrocities of WWII. Seemed so just and right at the time. But has that worked, even yet? Aren’t the peoples in that area still fighting?

    I wonder: If “we” should move in and tell the countries just what and how to do whatever it is that will resolve their problems (no matter how right “we” may be). I find myself wondering how long will fighting still go on?

    As with everyone else in this world, individuals and countries will solve their problems their own way. Here I think of Ghandi who led India to its sovereignty. If I recall correctly, he tho’t that the Muslims being forced into their “own nation” of Pakistan was a poor idea. And he’s still right.

    It seems to me that what many countries desperately need are leaders who sincerely care for their people and want justice for them. Now there’s a solution hard to come by.

    People and countries simply have to come to their own solutions their own way. Meanwhile, it seems to me that all other nations can do is stand by and help those immigrants who are trying to survive the resulting chaos by moving to other countries – a most unpopular concept, I am aware.

    Solving other people’s problems is always easy. What’s difficult is other people understanding what their problems are – and here I am emphasizing that by “other people” I almost always mean ourselves. What should happen if another country had the effrontery to tell the U.S. how to solve some of its own problems? Think of the uproar! We may be aware of what our own problems are; more often we cannot see what our own problems are (except to know we have problems); much less are we able to see the “simple” solution others can so easily see. The same with other countries. It’s easy to tell others what and how to do something. It’s most difficult to have the “others” see what we see; and the same goes for us. Others can see our own problems and their “easy” solution; we, however, have much more difficulty in seeing the same thing others see. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 27, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

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