It’s Up to the Government of Iraq Now
A George F. Will thought about Iraq from the winter of 2004 seems increasingly prescient…
A manager says, “Our team is just two players away from being a championship team. Unfortunately, the two players are Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.” Iraq is just three people away from democratic success. Unfortunately, the three are George Washington, James Madison, and John Marshall.At the moment, current Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki doesn’t seem destined to be remembered by history as the George Washington of Iraq. This is from a Reuters report from this morning…
Al-Maliki told Reuters on Thursday his Shiite-led government could get violence under control in six months if U.S. forces gave them more weapons and responsibility.The militias referred to are the Shi’ite militias operating in Baghdad and the southern part of Iraq.
He said police were having to share rifles but, with better American help, could bring respite from dozens of daily killings in half the 12-18 months the U.S. commander in Iraq says is needed before Iraqis can take full control.
Al-Maliki also said his priority was to suppress the insurgency and root out al-Qaida, rather than to disarm the militias.
The combination of wanting more weapons, but not wanting to confront the militias is not promising. Maliki’s statement suggests that his highest aspiration for the Iraqi government is building it up to the point where it shares power with Shi’ite militias. If this is the best Maliki has to offer, it will become increasingly difficult to convince America that there is any purpose in staying in Iraq much longer.
Ralph Peters expresses this idea in his New York Post column…
Our soldiers and Marines are dying to protect a government whose members are scrambling to ally themselves with sectarian militias and insurgent factions. President Bush needs to face reality. The Maliki government is a failure.Peters has a specific idea about what getting tough means…
There’s still a chance, if a slight one, that we can achieve a few of our goals in Iraq – if we let our troops make war, not love. But if our own leaders are unwilling to fight, it’s time to leave and let Iraqis fight each other.
The first thing we need to do is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, who’s now a greater threat to our strategic goals than Osama bin Laden.(Muqtada is the head of the Mahdi Army, Iraq’s largest Shi’ite militia. Peters continues…)
We should’ve killed him in 2003, when he first embarked upon his murder campaign. But our leaders were afraid of provoking riots.Another option comes from Max Boot (both Peters and Boot are experts on military affairs) writing in the Los Angeles Times…
Back then, the tumult might’ve lasted a week. Now we’ll face a serious uprising. So be it. When you put off paying war’s price, you pay compound interest in blood.
We must kill – not capture – Muqtada, then kill every gunman who comes out in the streets to avenge him.
There’s another course short of withdrawal: reducing U.S. forces from today’s level of 130,000 to under 50,000 and changing their focus from conducting combat operations to assisting Iraqi forces. The money saved from downsizing the U.S. presence could be used to better train and equip more Iraqi units. A smaller U.S. commitment also would be more sustainable over the long term. This is the option favored within the U.S. Special Forces community, in which the dominant view is that most American soldiers in Iraq, with their scant knowledge of the local language and customs, are more of a hindrance than a help to the counterinsurgency effort.Boot’s plan would help get Prime Minister Maliki more rifles for his soldiers, but as Peters noted about his own call for an offensive, Boot’s lighter, specialized force only works if implemented in conjunction with an Iraqi government determined to make itself into the sole legitimate governing authority in the country, and not just Iraq’s biggest militia.
Make no mistake: This is a high-risk strategy. The drawdown of U.S. troops could catalyze the Iraqis into getting their own house in order, or it could lead to a more rapid and violent disintegration of the rickety structure that now exists.
We have reached a point where how much of a commitment America continues to make towards Iraq will be largely determined by how much of a commitment the government of Iraq makes towards Iraq — all of Iraq, not just a few favored sects.