As President Bush puts the "final touches" on his "new" Iraq policy this weekend, Washington waits with bated breath for the fight to come. Having called up his Surgin’ General, David Petraeus, Mr. Bush is ready to embark on his Iraq escalation against the will of the American public and its elected Congress.
It is time to consider the consequences of Mr. Bush’s policy of escalation in Iraq.
It has been widely reported that Mr. Bush’s policy is based on the ideological fantasies of the neo-conservatives at the American Enterprise Institute. The neo-conservative of the moment is AEI’s Fred Kagan. In his report, entitled "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq", he lays out the "new way forward".
Throughout history, when small minds have attempted to think big, the results have been catastrophic for the world. This period of history is proving no different.
Mr. Kagan declares in the first lines of his report:
Victory is still an option in Iraq. America, a country of 300 million people with a GDP of $12 trillion, and more than 1 million soldiers and marines can regain control of Iraq, a state the size of California with a population of 25 million and a GDP under $100 billion.
Pride is not a strategy. The strategy in Iraq should not be based on a need to demonstrate the might of the American military-industrial complex. The strategy in Iraq should be based on the long term national interest of the United States of America.
Mr. Kagan continues:
Iraq has reached a critical point. The strategy of relying on a political process to eliminate the insurgency has failed. Rising sectarian violence threatens to break America’s will to fight. This violence will destroy the Iraqi government, armed forces, and people if it is not rapidly controlled.
Victory in Iraq is still possible at an acceptable level of effort. We must adopt a new approach to the war and implement it quickly and decisively. [Emphasis added by me.]
He has reached the opposite conclusion from most sane observers of the fiasco in Iraq. It is precisely our reliance on a military solution, and not a well thought-out political process, that has led us to this point in Iraq. Our failure to plan for "Phase IV" operations after toppling Saddam Hussein has contributed to the chaos in Iraq – and the time for a do-over has long passed.
So, what will be the consequence of the Kagan delusion, if implemented? If the Kagan plan fails, we will have sacrificed Iraqi and American lives for another stab at the ideological pie in the sky. However, the real danger lies in the success of the Kagan plan. Most observers have so far argued that his plan will fail and therefore should not be attempted. I believe the greater danger lies in the plan’s success.
Fred Kagan’s plan is a strategy for ethnic cleansing. If implemented, the Bush Administration will actively participate in a policy of ethnic cleansing in Iraq. They will make the American military and the American people complicit in their policy.
Mr. Kagan’s plan focuses on Baghdad as the center of operations. His plan is to clear, or "ethnically cleanse" if you will, the Sunni parts of Baghdad:
We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments to support clear-and-hold operations starting in the spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient. These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city.
The Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki and the Shia militias of Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim have been quietly following this policy for well over two years now. Finally, they will get some American help.
As the United States debates what to do in Iraq, this country’s Shiite majority has been moving toward its own solution: making the capital its own.
Large portions of Baghdad have become Shiite in recent months, as militias press their fight against Sunni militants deeper into the heart of the capital, displacing thousands of Sunni residents. At least 10 neighborhoods that a year ago were mixed Sunni and Shiite are now almost entirely Shiite, according to residents, American and Iraqi military commanders and local officials.
To prepare for the American assistance, the Maliki government this weekend unveiled their plan for ethnic cleansing, or "fighting terrorists", as they like to call it:
Maliki’s words appeared intended to counter the perception that the plan would focus on combating Sunni insurgents. An aide to Maliki, Hasan Suneid, a Shiite Muslim lawmaker, told the Associated Press that the Iraqi army would devote 20,000 additional troops to the capital and begin by combating Sunni insurgents in western Baghdad.
Maliki’s speech provided few details about the tactical or strategic changes guiding the forthcoming effort. But his aides described an effort that relies on U.S. troops to combat Sunni insurgents on the outskirts of Baghdad. Those areas are where the Sunni insurgents plan and manufacture the deadly explosives that detonate regularly in the city.
"Maliki believes that it is in this ring that the attacks are coming from," one of his aides said.
The Iraqi forces would target the most violent neighborhoods, and commanders would have a greater degree of autonomy in their assigned sections of the city, Askari said.
Maliki believes that if the additional troops can effect a decrease in violence over the next two months, then he can negotiate more effectively with Shiite militia leaders in the city and improve his chances of disarming them, his aides said.
Mr. Maliki and Mr. Kagan are in complete agreement. The way to secure peace is to decrease the violence by ethnically cleansing Baghdad of Sunnis. Then, the Shia militias will make nice and peace will reign. Call me biased, but having lived through such a plan of "pacification" in my own life, I can smell ethnic cleansing better than most.
Baghdad is important. It is important because the sectarian fault lines of Iraq run through it. Throughout the American occupation, Baghdad has been coming apart along sectarian lines. Once mixed neighborhoods are being slowly ethnically cleansed into Shia and Sunni neighborhoods. Now Mr. Kagan is advocating helping the Shia eliminate the remaining Sunni neighborhoods west of the Tigris River. When Iraqi forces and militias go into Sunni neighborhoods they will go in to settle sectarian scores, not to hunt "terrorists". The United States government should take no part in this.
The path to national reconciliation in Iraq does not go through Baghdad – only the path to Iraq’s disintegration goes through Baghdad. The path to a stable Iraq goes through Iraq’s oil fields in the South and in Kirkuk, appeals to shared Arab nationalism, and access to the Persian Gulf through the Shatt al-Arab. A smarter man than Mr. Kagan would consider how oil revenue sharing, pipelines to the Gulf, and interests of Iraq’s neighbors such as Iran in said access to Gulf can be weaved together into a way forward that does not lead down a path of further violence. Instead, a small mind has come up with a recipe for ethnic cleansing – and Mr. Bush is set to endorse it.
It is up to the newly muscular United States Congress to prevent American complicity in the ethnic cleansing and massacres to come. A massacre of Iraq’s Sunnis will push us toward that regional war that everyone claims they fear. It is time for Congress to step up and prevent any further loss of American and Iraqi lives in the service of ideological midgets.
[Cross posted at Taylor Marsh]