HistoricalMullet: My plan for Iraq

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Just jotting down notes I’ve been thinking about for the last few months. Hidden behind the LJ cut for those who don’t care. I doubt the below would ever happen, it’s very politically risky, but it seems to me the most assured way of achieving success in Iraq at this point and heading off the growing insurgency before it gets to a nationwide level.

Plan for Iraq

Step 1: Increase troop strength in Iraq to about 200,000-275,000. Bring in the Army Marine divisions already on tap for replacement and extend deployments for those there for another 6-8 months, activate Navy and Air Force Reserves.

Step 2: Deploy the Marine division in the Suuni triangle, they’re best trained for counter-insurgency. Deploy Army units to seal borders with Syria/Iran/Saudia Arabia, patrol pipelines, and provide raid support to marines. Navy and Air Force Reserves are best used as extra manpower for civil affairs and reconstruction efforts.

Step 3: Split the country into three provinces: Kurdish North, Suuni center, and Shiite south. Restrict travel between the three provinces. Each province has enough economic potential resources to be self-sufficient if needed over the long run, though the long-term goal is a federated Iraq. However that must be determined by the provinces in turn, prior to the British Mandate of 1920 there wasn’t a contiguous Iraq as the country we recognize now, though having three weak states may prove too tempting to their neighbors to assimilate/annex so a federal system of some sort is probably the most prudent long term goal.

Step 4: Institute expanded self-rule powers in the Kurdish north and Shiite south over the next year. Allow local, municipal, and “state” elections/legislatures to form and create laws, establish courts, collect taxes, and foster economic development in addition to the current limited steps under the oversight of appointed military governors. This will allow legal/civil/government institutions to begin functioning and give Iraqis experience in the democratic process. The military governors should be very hands-off unless absolutely needed. The US Constitution was only formed after several years of failed confederacy and upon a legislative tradition over five decades old, you cannot turn democracy on like a light switch. The military governors and troops should be replaced by Iraqis on set conditions based on security, the creation of civil institutions, and internationally recognized election processes. You’ll end up with a moderate Islamic-influenced government in the north and a more conservative Islamic-influenced government in the south. This is okay, they’ll need to bridge these differences eventually in an Iraqi Constitution.

Step 5: Squeeze the Suuni triangle hard. Abandon the tired Rumsfield line that these are dead-enders and foreigners only. Recognize we’re confronting 4+ different resistance groups: Saddam-led Baathists, foreign Jihadists, unorganized Baath loyalists, and Iraqi nationalists who are glad Saddam’s gone but want the US out. Ensure they don’t combine and if possible mollify one group (Iraqi nationalists would be my suggestion) by giving them power/legitimacy so you can turn them against the other groups. This would have to be carefully managed and could spiral out of control so the best method is to co-opt the nationalists legally into a public structure, rather than allowing them to go paramilitary like in Columbia or Ireland.

Step 6: Disband the WMD search teams and put those special forces’ intel assets into counter-insurgency efforts and border control. WMD is not a threat right now because either:

A) They never existed,

B) They did and are in another country and we can’t get to them without UN intervention and/or another invasion

C) They did and are already in the hands of the terrorists,

D) They did and are so well buried/concealed that they are no longer an immediate threat

Any way you slice it WMD no longer represents a threat in a manner that the Army can appropriately deal with without further political decision making and those assets are needed to put down the insurgency moreso than chasing shadows which may/may not result in anything. With security re-established the search for WMD can be renewed.

Step 7: Pray that North Korea doesn’t attack, that Afghanistan doesn’t deteriorate further, that China doesn’t move on Tawain, or that the Columbian government fails because right now the US is stretched too thin to react properly to any. That means diplomacy (not appeasement) to solve those issues rather than saber rattling or military.

Step 8: Move away from auxiliaries doing the military work and back to regular troops. I’m referring to civilian “contractors”, foreign troops of dubious quality (not sure how much experience Polynesian islands have in peacekeeping), and nightwatchmen Iraqi policemen. If you throw these types into the face of a well-organized insurgency you’ll only have dead friendly. Use the military to fight battles, not civilians.

That would be my plan (assuming we won’t get any UN assistance) it would require 200,000-275,000 troops probably through 2005. If you can cut off the insurgency before it sprouts more heads the conflict can be contained. Iraq has the possibility of turning into another Afghanistan, its history shows that. They have a hundred-year history of resisting foreign occupation and no tradition of shared power or democracy. Currently, we have Shiite support in the south and Kurdish in the north, we must maintain that by separating them from the Sunni triangle. If nationalist insurgencies begin in the south or the north the country will become significantly more complicated to pacify.

The process of getting a formal nationwide Iraq constitution and bringing the three provinces together again would take a long time only after institutions and security have been established, longer than anyone is willing to admit. But by giving them self-rule within the provinces on an accelerated schedule you begin heading down that road and give them a roadmap for getting there without overly defining what the end vision will look like.

Just my rambling thoughts. I haven’t heard any decent plan articulated by any politician (either Republican administration or Democrat candidates), which worries me that we’re just stumbling forward into a nightmare scenario.

Tim C.


How’s that radioactive crack, Tim? 

Eh? I guess no one really cares about stuff like this. I have friends and future in-laws heading that way if they’re not already over there. It’s an odd place to be in, I didn’t think we should have gone to war like we did but now that we’re there I think it’s critically important we do it right. By contrast I see a lot of so called “hawks” who waved the flag for all 17 days we were fighting with low casualties and pretty made-for-TV video sequences but now seem to be panicky about reducing troop levels and getting out of Iraq in just a few months; almost like they had no f***ing clue what real war and nation building was all about. Sorry, that’s my bitter side coming out.

I’m sure some people do. I do, too, in theory, and I probably have much less background in looking at these issues. I guess I just have an adverse reaction (however illogical) to a continuing large scale presence and recommendations for broadening it.

And as much as I’m sure it’s a common part of world policy and realistic scenarios in general, the part about prayer scared me – it sounds like too much hope for luck/providence in cases which look much more volatile to me. (I’m a deist, so it makes sense that way. G_d looks on and sighs.)

“I guess I just have an adverse reaction (however illogical) to a continuing large scale presence and recommendations for broadening it.”

I do to, but I’m a pragmaticist. Broaden it now or broaden it later, we’re on the hook no matter how you slice it. My accounting professor made a grim prophecy a few weeks ago based on his experience growing up in the Vietnam era, “just wait, right now it’s a soldier a two or day, pretty soon it will be 15-20 a day”. I think he’s right if we pussyfoot about it and don’t contain this here and now. Or if we leave Iraq altogether we’ll have to go back or face a destabilization in excess of what I think we can tolerate given our dependency on oil. It’s why I was against going in unilaterally, to begin with, Saddam (as long as he’s contained) for all his faults is a stabilizing force on the regional dynamics countering Iran which without a strong Iraq could probably roll the rest of the Persian gulf.

For example, we could’ve taken out Al-Inswar without invading Iraq (heck they were in US-Kurdish-controlled territory, to begin with). But that’s really neither here nor there, we’re there now, as Americans, and as much as I blame neo-cons for getting us into this mess the mess itself doesn’t recognize differences of partisanship.

The “Pray that X” doesn’t happen is more of a colloquialism than any actual religious intention. I’m not in a speaking relationship with many gods of the world, but from what I’ve read they would take dimly to being linked to such petty affairs as wars and political struggles. =)

I’d argue that Saddam was actually a destabilizing force in the area, absent American intervention. He’s the guy who attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990, after all.

The Iran-Iraq war can hardly be labeled destabilizing. Though it did result in hundreds of thousands of deaths on both sides only a few miles of land ever changed hands and the strategic result was a stalemate. Indeed at the time the war was seen as a positive to world interests for blunting/distracting the fevor of the Iranian Revolution which is why Iraq was supported by both the US and the Soviet Union.

Both the Iran-Iraq war and the Kuwaiti invasion were fought over deep-water access (and oil in Kuwait) and these were not unique goals Saddam came up with on his own. The British Mandate gave Iraq little deep-water access and those were always aspirations of Iraqi leadership. The Iraqi claim on Kuwait dates back to the 1950’s made at the same time British declared Kuwait independent, and the struggle of the Iranian ports (the name escapes me Al-adib I think) near Basra dated to the early 70’s. As in every case diplomacy (some legitimate some fraudulent) perceeded both invasions by a decade or two at least. Indeed the US Ambassador Gillispie was aware of the Kuwaiti several days prior to it happening and gave an incorrect assurance (based on an outdated 60’s policy and not Bush Sr.’s actual desires) that the US would not intervene to Saddam.

Of course the invasion of Kuwait was far more destabilizing, there is a historical argument whether Saddam was actually intending to invade Saudia Arabia but I think the Bush Sr. made the prudent move of avoiding that potential with Desert Shield followed by Desert Storm. Historical discussion aside I find no significant argument that Saddam remained a destabilizing force after the Kuwait invasion of 1990. His countries infrastructure was in shambles from bombing and sanctions, limited oil sales, and no-fly zones cutting Iraq in three pieces limiting his control north and south. I do not see any viable offensive conventional threat he could have posed in that position, and yet still Iraq itself served as a counter to Iran in the gulf.

I thought your plan was pretty reasonable, except for splitting the country up along the lines of the old Ottoman provinces; I’m not a big fan of multi-ethnic states that don’t want to be multi-ethnic states (Yugoslavia, for example),

Remember both the Ottomans and the British ruled by putting the Suuni minority over the Shiite and Kurdish minorities, and the British cemented this into modern Iraq by cutting a deal with King Fazil and his son Ghazi. Yugoslavia was a mess becuase it enforced multiethnicity with states that didn’t want it, the divisions I proposed are largely upon existing ethnic lines. If they get together down the road that’s probably going to be up to them in a Constitutional referendum, just as the colonies had to decide to join together or stay apart after the revolutionary war.

The provinces I reccomended above would be self-ruled by the people living in them, something they haven’t had in recent history. I think it’s important not to hold up the north and the south based on the security of the middle. If you can show those areas the benefits of self-rule and stability (increased oil revenues, self-determination etc.) you can lessen the visible military presence and quell any nationalist feelings. It’s unlikely that Baathists (Saddam led or not) will emerge in those regions, but, if they view the US as occupiers for too long nationalist insurgencies will emerge in those areas. You can also begin with the equivilant of state/province legislatures, court systems, and other civil institutions needed prior to a constitutional referendum. Finally both those regions have viable oil fields and transportation means to the world (north through turkey and through Basra to the Persian Gulf). Stable slef-ruled provinces benefiting from those revenues will directly see the benefits and return to them a self-respect they haven’t had in hundreds of years. No one enjoyes being repressed (by Saddam)or occupied (by the Ottomans, the British, or the US), the sooner we remove ourselves as occupiers in the minds of those people the better.

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