Arab Spring

A barren tree, once full of life
Stands leafless, brown ice in gloom
A barren tree, once full of strife
Stands not a spark, not a flower in bloom
A barren tree, once full of promise
Stands in sorrow, a promise but for tomorrow
As for today, not a leaf dares there stay

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Resisting the Urge to Purge

Once again Democrats are protesting moves by the Bush administration to change events in Iraq without coming up with a viable alternative. This time Democrats are steadily uniting against an increase of troops in Iraq, while Democratic congressmen and women are promising stiff resistance to Bush’s policy shift. For the past six years, the Democrats seem to be dancing awkwardly to the wrong tune. During the summer of 2002 and leading to the invasion of Iraq, when the Democrats should have protested, even out right obstructed, the administration’s plans, they voted for and abetted the misguided war of choice waged by the Neocons. Since then the Democrats have been in a state of utter confusion and have not united around any policy proposal pertaining to Iraq. The reason for this confusion is that the Democrat’s pivotal moment in Iraq has come and left as they failed to mount an opposition against the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now that the United States is in Iraq, proposals such as John Martha’s troop withdrawal and even a phased troop withdrawal are no longer an option.

Beside the obvious moral obligations for staying in Iraq and preventing an all out civil war for which it is partially responsible, the United States has even more compelling economic and political reasons to stay in Iraq. First, Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites are ready to descend into a bloodbath whose repercussions may easily spread to other Sunni-Shiite fault lines in the region in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and Bahrain. The spreading of sectarian schism in the Persian Gulf would have dire economic consequences, which would definitely affect the global economy as well as global security. Add to this unfortunate tableau a rising Shiite Iran that is extending its influence all the way to Hizbullah, Hamas and even Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as well as an increasingly defensive Israel and a besieged Palestinian population. Withdrawing American troops from Iraq is not a solution given that the United States would most definitely have to go back into a more dangerous situation to impede the ensuing chaos as it boils over.

Proposing a troop increase is not as ridiculous as some detractors insist, nor is Iraq as hopeless as it seems. Securing Iraq’s citizens, as well as its museums, libraries and infrastructure is what should have been done at the onset of this regrettable war. Instead, the Neocons decided to embark on a Rumsfeldian war on the slim, which as it turns out is an unqualified failure. Without sufficient troops to secure the infrastructure of Iraq, its cultural heritage or even its citizens, the country quickly disintegrated. Having dissolved the Iraqi Army and police, the US administration in Iraq naively relied on local militias which, sectarian in nature and hard to control, are largely responsible for the frightening calamity that is Iraq. A troop increase can also be reconciled with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group which did not propose an immediate troop withdrawal for the reasons outlined above. It did insist on a diplomatic track to go along with the military strategy to help Iraqi Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political groups to forge a political agreement on key issues such as federalism and the distribution of oil wealth.

In a dual diplomatic strategy, the ISG also outlined a regional effort at Israeli-Arab peace to accompany internal Iraqi reconciliation. This dual strategy may prove to be the most important part of the ISG proposal. In 2002, the Neocons haughtily predicted that the “road to Jerusalem goes though Baghdad” implying a sort of subjugation of any residual Arab resistance in stubborn Baghdad, enabling the United States and Israel to impose a peace deal on the Palestinians. Unfortunately for the Neocons and for Israel, the defeat of Saddam has spawned a more threatening and more credible menace in the form of Iran. Now the ISG seems to suggest that the road to Baghdad goes through Jerusalem, and that maybe so, because the United States now is as radioactive as a Russian Spy Agency and it may take such a bold peace accord in the Middle East to enable Arab countries to work closely with the United States in pacifying Iraq. Furthermore, peace in the Holy Land will deprive Iran of its two important patrons, Hizbullah and Hamas, whose raison-d’etre is Israel’s occupation of Arab lands, as well as bring back Syria to the Arab fold away from the tutelage of Iran. This dual strategy of diplomacy within and without Iraq can deal Tehran a triple blow, depriving it of Iraq, Syria, and militant groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas.

As Democrats offer the President snide remarks about “resisting the urge to surge”, they, themselves, may be advised to resist the urge to purge. Iraq’s invasion was a mistake and the execution of the occupation was a sham. Nonetheless, leaving Iraq now is a false choice and a false economy. Whatever tax dollars are saved and however many American lives are spared will have to be reinvested many times over to contain a widening conflict. The United States will have to contain the mess it has created. Better do it now in Iraq than deal with it in a year all across the Persian Gulf.


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