Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Juan Cole's Reality Check on Iraq

Univerity of Michigan historian Juan Cole has become one of the most widely respected thinkers and information sources on Iraq with his blog Informed Comment. He recently caught flack for sugessting that John Kerry would be irrsponsible to have a simplisitic US out now policy.

Here's what he wrote:

If John Kerry wins, he will inherit the Iraq morass and will not have good options there. He can't just pull out the troops and leave oil-rich Persian Gulf to fall into chaos. The idea that the international community can be persuaded to come in and rescue us seems far-fetched. We'll just have to muddle through. This outcome is a kind of poison pill bequeathed all Americans by the jingoist party in Washington (both so-called realists and neoconservatives). We broke it, we own it, as Powell warned (threatened) Bush.

[I have gotten several complaints about this paragraph from readers who dream of a different Iraq policy. Believe me I wish I could see an alternative. But if the US troops withdrew tomorrow, I'd give Allawi and his "government" about two weeks to live, after which the Deluge. And the Deluge really would endanger US energy security (say, $10 a gallon gasoline, which equals de-industrialization, if the Persian Gulf region were destabilized) and possibly open us to further terrorist attacks, with a disheveled Iraq as a base. And France, Russia, Germany, India, etc. are not coming, folks. There are no "international troops" to replace US ones. Even if it were inclined, which it is not, the EU only has a spare capacity of 12,500 troops for service abroad, given its commitments in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

The only way for the US and UK and other foreign troops to get out of Iraq is for an Iraqi army to be reestablished pronto. The only way to do that pronto is essentially to bring back the Baath army. I'd say bringing back the non-dirty Baath regular army may be the best near-term solution, if the politics of it can be resolved; it isn't happening with any rapidity. Allawi may be trying to do that, but remember that the Kurds and the Sadrist Shiites won't exactly be elated, and the country could break up over it. To repeat, this is not Bush's mess. This is America's mess. It is not going away, there are no good options, and it may go terribly wrong on Kerry if he is elected. It is not my job to give you good news or make you feel better about the future. My American readers may as well understand that their country is caught in quicksand in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nobody is there to throw us a rope. - addendum 2:09 pm 7/26]

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