Saturday, May 5, 2007

It's Not When to End the Iraq Occupation, But How

Would Neo-NeoConsevativism equal realpolitik?
Francis Fukuyama is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the author of "America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy."

Fukuyama has, in the past, been considered neoconservative. I think he was a founding member of the infamous Project for the New American Century (PNAC). He is also an author of a PNAC letter to Bush after 9-11, calling for regime change in Baghdad "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack(s)" on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Before the first year of Bush's illegal, un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (IUULUIUOI) was up, Fukuyama began to have second and third thoughts. According to Wikipedia,
he drifted from the neoconservative agenda, which he felt had become overly militaristic and based on muscular, unilateral armed intervention to further democratization within authoritarian regimes (particularly in the Middle East). By late 2003, when it became apparent that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was failing, Fukuyama withdrew his support and called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense. He said that he would vote against Bush in the 2004 election and said Bush made some major mistakes:
  1. The threat of radical Islam to the US was overestimated.
  2. The Bush administration didn't foresee the fierce negative reaction to its benevolent hegemony.
  3. From the very beginning it showed a negative attitude towards the United Nations and other international organizations and didn't see that this would increase anti-Americanism in other countries.
  4. The Bush administration misjudged what was needed to bring peace in Iraq and was overly optimistic about the success with which social engineering of Western values could be applied to Iraq and the Middle East in general.
In the Los Angeles Times this morning, Fukuyama writes that it is no longer a question of if or when the U.S. leaves Iraq, but how. He takes note that there already have been nodes presenting us with opportunities to disengage from occupation:
In more than four years of war, there have been countless turning points at which we were led to expect decisive political progress in Iraq:
  • the capture of Saddam Hussein (December 2003);

  • the turnover of sovereignty (June 2004);

  • elections for the constituent assembly (January 2005); elections to ratify the constitution (August 2005);

  • elections for the Iraqi parliament (December 2005).
Fukuyama thinks that in excusing ourselves from Bush's legacy of a perpetual occupation of Iraq, we will be worse off than we were in Vietnam:
The situation today is in some ways much worse than the one faced by President Nixon in Vietnam 35 years ago. At that time, South Vietnam had an army with a paper strength of 1 million men that, despite its problems, was able hold on for three years after the U.S. withdrew its ground forces. The South Vietnamese army provided Henry Kissinger with his "decent interval" between the U.S. withdrawal and South Vietnam's collapse. . . . Nothing like that exists or will exist in Iraq for the politically meaningful future. . . . Serious training of Iraqi forces started late and never received adequate funding or top-level attention, despite the fact that Petraeus was at the helm of the training effort in recent years. The South Vietnamese army may have been nothing to write home about in 1972, but we are extremely unlikely to have an Iraqi equivalent by the end of 2007.
Fukuyama argues that the dynamics of the occupation vs insurgency vs sectarian civil war is not going to be materially improved by surging. He says the debate should change from surging vs withdrawal to how to withdraw:
. . . .about how to draw down our forces in a way that minimizes the costs that will inevitably accompany our loss of control.

The questions we need to address include:
  1. How do we reconfigure our forces to provide advice, training and support, rather than engaging in combat?
  2. How we can withdraw safely without a serious Iraqi army to cover our retreat?
  3. How will we dismantle enormous bases like Camp Liberty or Camp Victory and protect the diminishing numbers of U.S. troops in the country?
  4. Do we trust the Iraqi military and police sufficiently to turn over our equipment to them?
  5. How do we protect the lives of those who collaborated with us? The images of South Vietnamese allies hanging to the skid pads of U.S. helicopters departing Saigon should be burned into our memories.
  6. And what if the weak Iraqi government we leave behind falls or other political crises occur when we have fewer U.S. troops to respond?
  7. Can we work with proxies, resources or arms supplies to shape outcomes?
In terms of regional adjustments in international politics, Fukuyama says things are not necessarily as grim as they were in Vietnam:
As we draw down, the civil war is likely to intensify, and the focus of our efforts will have to shift to containing it within Iraq's borders. Preventing intervention by outside forces will become an even more urgent priority.

On the other hand, it is not necessarily the case that the situation will spiral out of control. Although the situation is graver in some ways than Vietnam, in others it is better. Although we have no equivalent to a South Vietnamese army, the enemy has no equivalent of the North Vietnamese army. It is hard to see any of the small factions struggling for power in different parts of the country emerging as a dominant force throughout Iraq.
Neo-Neo-Conservative Fukuyama ends on a realpolitik note:
The presence of U.S. forces has itself been a spur to terrorist recruitment, but as it becomes clear that we are on our way out, it will be easier for Iraqi nationalists to turn against the foreign jihadists (as they have already begun to do in Al Anbar province).

An intensifying civil war will be a tragedy for Iraq, but it is not the worst outcome from a U.S. standpoint to have a number of bitterly anti-American groups duking it out among themselves.

Civil wars eventually come to an end when one side wins (unlikely, in this case) or when the parties exhaust themselves and drop their maximalist aims.
As I have said before, we have to think outside of Bush and Cheney's box before we can dig our way out of their tunnel.


  1. Cheney is out-numbered and marginalized with his pals Wolfowitz and Rummy gone. Condi Rice is (finally) coming into her own. She recently checked in (by phone)with Nancy Pelosi before her talk with the Syrians in Egypt. Condi reached out to Pelosi after joining the shrub in trashing Pelosi for having the temerity to talk to the Syrians herself. Word is that Nancy was most gracious in responding to Condi's call.

  2. Not easy, the how bit.

    An operation of such magnitude requires consensus.

    But to reach a concensus, you must have a strong president both on the national and international fronts as well as a strong, honest military leader who is capable of telling his commander in chief - to his face - that Iraq is a lost war.

    You may have the latter but he is useless in the face of a weak commander in chief.

  3. Emily, girls will get together, and they will talk.

  4. Click on "The Madness Must End" published in a general readership local newspaper distributed in the heart of F.J. Sensenbrenner's congressional district, six months PRIOR to the invasion of Iraq.

    This column was attacked viciously, but, more importantly, it was supported by eighty percent of the readers of that newspaper who commented at that time, in September of 2002.

    You can see this column at the "Hearts and Minds" blog, which you can access by feeding "clydewinter" to your internet browser.

  5. Thanks, Clyde. For the convenience of our readers, that's
    The Madness Must End.

    Clyde, any chance the supportive letters to the editor are accessible?

  6. David Brin at his site once suggested that a clean way to withdraw from Iraq but yet maintain enough forces in the area to squash any surprises that might come about should the country fall apart would be to pull our troops into Iraqi Kurdistan. A region that has been supportive of American troops and relatively peaceful. Our presence there could also act as a buffer between the Turks and Kurds preventing the a conflict between the two. Whether we could restrain the Kurds from declaring independence if the rest of Iraq fell apart is a whole other question.

  7. mullah cimoc say ameriki needing for remember vietnam war ending.

    when last helicopter flying away the usa embassey how long before the gun of war going silent?

    Answer: 3 day and now peace more than 30 years among vietnam people. back then time usa govt and control media say the same lying excuse for continue the kill.

    special important: not the single viet cong coming for attack amerika during all this thirty year.

    now patriotc ameriki man him needing for destroy israeli spy operations in usa starting with elimination the necon sending him to iraq for living in baghdad with mccain tell evryone how safe.

  8. We get out, we dismantle the green zone, we pay reparations, we apologize, and we promise never to meddle in their affairs again.

    They settle their differences amongst themselves. Our presence there accomplishes nothing.

    We need to stop trying to control the world's oil supply and do things to become more energy independent.

    Tax S.U.V and pick-ups up the wazoo. There are way too many of them on the road.

    Teach conservation - this can have an immediate impact. It's something that each of us can do right now.

  9. Good post Anon. Mullah, whoever you are. Yes, lets just pull the plug on it, and go home. After all, we are just a bunch of crazed loonies now in the current configuration.
    There is no 'polite' way to destroy a country for economic/religious reasons, and then pretend that they are not up to the task of fighting their ensuing civil war, while we continue to keep their oil off the market, thereby enhancing profits for the real 'makers' of the 'war'.

  10. To my way of thinking the way to disengage is to engage the other nations of the world and especially that region to intervene diplomatically.

  11. Beach, I have wanted to post on the issue of the Kurdish question. I see at least three too many difficulties with this.

    1. The only "good" that has come out of regime change in Iraq has been a partial liberation of the Kurds. Viewing an American pull-out from Iraq, a sizable U.S. bivouac would be necessary to sustain and stabilize the Kurdish entity, primarily against restive Turkey.

    2. A question obviously arises as to the ground logistics of support to an American base in Kurdistan. All surrounding states who have Kurdish enclaves (Syria, Turkey, & Iran) are hostile to an independent Kurd entity approaching statehood.

    3. The Kurds, as beneficiaries of Bush's regime change, will probably oppose American withdrawal.

    How do you reconcile these if, and's and but's?

  12. Hi Vigil, Like I wrote David Brin is where I first read anything about this idea and even he listed the issues you raised. Namely the Kurdish minority issue in the surrounding countries. How do I reconcile the ifs and buts, I can't it was just another idea in a whole realm of ideas that range from bad to utter disaster.