Monday, February 21, 2005

A Belated Explosion of Defeatist Screeds

This post comes about two months after the articles were published online on RealClearPolitics.com. Weariness and time constraints prevented me from typing and posting it sooner, and the stunning elections in January have rebutted them more thoroughly than I could with a mere blog.
I think it worthy to post anyhow, to preserve a refutation of defeatism for the apathy that will surely creep back despite the popular endorsement of democracy by the Iraqi people.


Despite the defeat of Senator Kerry in November’s elections, his Iraqi policy ekes out a life of its own in the fringes of technocracy.

The key points of the policy Kerry adopted—which he of course did not originate—are to get out of Iraq ASAP; trust anybody and everybody else on earth to do a better job than we are doing; champion the handover of functions to Iraqis that already occurred in July 2004; rely on regional summits involving self-declared enemies of the United States; and an emphasis on security rather than democracy.

Despite Senator Kerry’s clear articulation of these points, and his defeat in the national election, they are still considered viable alternatives by experienced advocates. RealClearPolitics.com highlighted two articles from the Evacuation Chappelle, one by Dr. William Polk and the other by Dr. James Dobbins.

Dr. Dobbins is a Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Institute, which gives his curriculae vitae:
A veteran diplomat who has held senior White House and State Department positions under four Presidents, most recently served as the Bush administration's special envoy for Afghanistan. Previously served as a United States special envoy for Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia.

Has held a variety of State Department and White House posts, including Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Special Assistant to the President for the Western Hemisphere, Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State for the Balkans, and Ambassador to the European Community.

Through the 1990's, supervised peace operations in Kosovo and Bosnia, as he earlier had for Haiti and Somalia, managing American relief and reconstruction efforts in the Balkans in excess of $1 billion per annum.
Dr. Dobbins has written an essay in the journal “Foreign Affairs” entitled “Iraq: Winning the Unwinnable War”. The contradictions carry over into the body of the piece.
American forces have lost the support of the Iraqi population and probably cannot regain it. The insurgency can be defeated only by Iraqi forces under Iraqi leadership, and only to the degree that those forces can dramatically reduce their dependence on the United States. Military operations should be governed by a counterinsurgency strategy emphasizing pacification--that is to say, priority should be given to securing the civilian population, not hunting down insurgents. In the end, insurgencies are defeated not by killing insurgents, but by winning the support of the population and thus denying the insurgents both refuge and recruits.
...No population will support a force that cannot protect it, so enhancing the Iraqi people's security should take priority over other military and civil objectives. Doing so will require freeing the population from intimidation by the insurgents, and that will require military action. Yet if such action is U.S.-led, employs heavy ordinance, produces large-scale collateral damage, and inflicts numerous innocent casualties, it could be counterproductive. In the end, the success or failure of an offensive such as the November assault on Falluja must be measured not according to body counts or footage of liberated territory, but according to Iraqi public opinion. If the Iraqi public emerges less supportive of its government, and more supportive of the insurgents, then the battle, perhaps even the war, will have been lost.
As Dobbins states, enhancing security “will require military action”; however, killing insurgents is somehow not directly related to victory. Dobbins espouses the two deep myths of the anti-war movement. First is a belief that in spite of an incredible death rate and constant failure to achieve political objectives, the Iraqi insurgents recruit easily from the Iraqi population, or as one antiwar teen put it, “spawn like bots in Unreal Tournament 2004”. The second myth is adoration of the false god of “legitimacy” or popular support. “Mojo” is probably just as accurate. Sure, the interim government and coalition forces can break up all insurgent enclaves, hold elections, and govern effectively—but they still won’t have the mojo!

Dobbins offers further contradictions
:...Keeping U.S. troops in Iraq will only provoke fiercer and more widespread resistance, but withdrawing them too soon could spark a civil war.
...The only factor that unites Muslim fundamentalist mujahideen, secular Baathist holdouts, and Shiite extremists is their desire to expel American forces--a goal that a majority of the Iraqi people seems to share, too. If that rallying cause can be weakened by diminishing Washington's involvement, the Iraqi government should be able to play on divisions among the rebels, steering some of them away from violence and toward the political mainstream, while marginalizing or dividing the rest.
It should be self-evident that if a terrorist goal is an American withdrawal, conceding that withdrawal does not weaken them. Having won an important point, the terrorists would be in a stronger position with regard to the interim government, and not “weakened”—hence the concern over a civil war after an American pullout. This is not completely uncharted territory, as we have the example of South Vietnam to draw upon.

Dobbins goes so far as to urge the USA err in the Vietnam fashion—abandon effective warfighting for political correctness:
Pulverizing cities to root out insurgents may restore some control to the Iraqi government, but the benefits are unlikely to last long if the damage also alienates the population. Sacrificing innocent Iraqi lives to save American ones is a difficult tradeoff. Using better-calibrated warfare tactics--manpower instead of firepower, snipers and special forces instead of tanks and artillery--could mean saving innocent Iraqi lives at the cost of more U.S. casualties. Of course, the U.S. government must concern itself with American as well as Iraqi public support for the war. But for now, Washington should be especially mindful of the losses it inflicts on Iraqi civilians, because today the lack of support for its efforts among them is a far more immediate threat than the lack of support at home.

Apart from the gross exaggeration that Iraqi cities are being “pulverized”, and the repugnant calculation that an American soldier killed is politically better for the Administration than an Iraqi building shelled, Dobbins reveals his military incompetence by calling for the repudiated tactics of manpower instead of firepower. The French called it furia francesca, the Germans called it "a wonderful opportunity for target practice."

So what is to be done? Dr. Dobbins calls for the total destruction of the War on Terror and a return to the Middle East policy priorities of the Carter Administration:
The United States should continue counterterrorism cooperation with regional governments and support for democratic forces in the region. But if Washington hopes to build regional support for the regime in Baghdad, these goals will have to recede from the fore of its public diplomacy and its rhetoric at home.
…Engaging Iran will present the greatest difficulties for the United States, given Tehran's nuclear aspirations, its support for terrorism against Israel, and several decades of mutual hostility and noncommunication. But Iraq cannot be stabilized without Iranian cooperation. Conversely, if Iraq is not stabilized, there can be no prospect of dimming Tehran's nuclear ambitions, however much its actual capabilities might otherwise be delayed by military or economic action. Yet quiet U.S.-Iranian cooperation of the sort Washington and Tehran achieved on Afghanistan after September 11 could pave the way for a more constructive dialogue on both Iraq and other issues.
…One crucial way the United States can demonstrate its sincerity toward the Arab world is to reengage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the United States will have little success in enlisting the Iraqi population, neighboring governments, and the international community to bring peace to Iraq if it cannot reposition itself as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. However dim the prospects for quick progress in settling the issues of Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights, Washington must be seen as giving them its highest attention.*
Further, the United States should limit itself to those goals acceptable to Iran, France, and the dictatorships of Central Asia.
*As an initial step toward a regional consensus on Iraq, the United States should ask the UN to convene a consultative group with the five permanent members of the Security Council, Iraq, and all its neighbors, modeled after the Peace Implementation Council on Bosnia or the group of two great powers (Russia and the United States) and six neighbors (China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) that was gathered to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan.
…In parallel with these regional efforts, Washington should seek to restore a transatlantic consensus on Iraq, launching quiet and informal talks with its principal partners and critics in Europe, including London, Paris, and Berlin. Whatever can be settled by these governments could then be sold to NATO, the EU, and the G-8 group of highly industrialized states plus Russia; whatever cannot be settled will never find support in any wider forum.
It should be obvious that any such parallel track would founder if the conclusions of one conference were declared dependent on results in the other conference. As prominent American critics—especially France—would be party to both talks, this would not be an unlikely outcome. It occurred leading up to the war, when France sought to block the US in both the Security Council and in NATO.
There is no substantive reason why nations which rebuff the United States in direct appeals would suddenly melt when seated in a forum of similarly indifferent or hostile nations.

But Dr. Dobbins has already acknowledged that these conferences would be deeply unproductive:
The transatlantic discussions should first focus on devising a common approach to Iraq and only later broach the issue of greater contributions to its rebuilding. Expanded allied efforts should initially seek to build Iraq's capacity for self-governance, encourage efforts within Iraq to bring elements of the resistance into the political mainstream, and support the constructive engagement of regional powers. New military contributions, to the extent that they reduce the preponderance of U.S. forces and expand the circle of countries committed to helping Iraq, would be helpful. But these are unlikely to be forthcoming, and even if they were, it is unclear whether, at this stage, the presence of many more European troops would help stabilize the country. Rather, the major contribution U.S. allies can now make is to help the Iraqi government to become more self-sufficient and to create a regional dynamic in its favor.

The US would therefore bend to Hamas, Iran, and Syria, not for money or troops or material aid, but to obtain a regional commitment to holding talks with the new Iraqi regime and legitimized insurgent representatives.

Forty years ago, hippies boasted of levitating the Pentagon with the power of good intentions; now this vision is expanded to fit the war in Iraq and forms respectable alternative foriegn policy.

Dr. William R. Polk is a man of deep learning and accomplishment:
"A former member of the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Council, William R. Polk was responsible for the Middle East. He has been a professor of history at the University of Chicago and Founding Director of its Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He is now senior director of the W.P. Carey Foundation."

“William R. Polk is the senior director of the W.P. Carey Foundation. After studies at Oxford (BA, MA) and Harvard (BA, Ph.D.) he taught at Harvard until 1961 when President Kennedy appointed him a Member of the Policy Planning Council of the U.S. Department of State. There, he was in charge of planning American policy for most of the Islamic world until 1965 when he became professor of history at the University of Chicago and founded its Middle Eastern Studies Center. Later he also became president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. Among his many books are The United States and the Arab World; The Elusive Peace: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century; Neighbors and Strangers: The Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs; Polk’s Folly, An American Family History; and The Birth of America.”


He has written an inaccurate article on the Iraqi occupation.
The earliest incarnation I can find was here on April 24, 2004; it was largely copied and republished online here on November 5, 2004; its most recent appearance was as a cover story for the American Conservative magazine.

To Dr. Polk, Iraq is frozen in time at the point of the dissolution of the Republican Guard.
Leaving aside Kurdistan, where roughly a quarter of all Iraqis live, Iraq is a shattered country. Its infrastructure has been pulverized by the “shock and awe” of the American invasion. Few Iraqis today even have clean drinking water or can dispose of their waste. About 7 in 10 adult Iraqis are without employment. Factories are idle, and small shopkeepers have been squeezed out of business. Movement even within cities is difficult and dangerous. And the trend in each of these categories is downward. Iraq’s society has been torn apart, and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqis have died. Virtually every Iraqi has a parent, child, spouse, cousin, friend, colleague, or neighbor—or perhaps all of these—among the dead. More than half of the dead were women and children. Putting Iraq’s casualties in comparative American terms would equate to about one million American deaths. Dreadful hatreds have been generated.
In fact, things have been nowhere near this bad for over a year.
According to a Council of Foreign Relations statement of June 16, 2004:
Last summer, the World Bank and IMF estimated Iraq’s unemployment at nearly 60 percent. By January 2004, Foley says, the rate had fallen to about 28 percent, with a margin of error of some 5 percentage points, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Planning. The current rate is roughly 25 percent, says Richard Greco, Jr., who served as an economic advisor to the CPA in Iraq and is the CPA’s acting director of private sector development in New York.

Further detailed Iraqi economic information, from Christmas Eve 2004, is available at the USAID website in pdf format.

Dr. Polk argues that Saddam was no real threat at all, interpreting the 9/11 Commission’s wholly subjective statements regarding “significant’ relationships between Saddam and Al-Qaeda to mean ‘no relationship at all’—and then arguing that the current insurgency is much worse than a billionaire dictator’s safe haven.
...At the beginning of the struggle against Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration charged that Iraq was a terrorist state acting in close collaboration with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. In the emotional reaction to the attacks in New York and Washington, sloganeering drowned out intelligence. Saddam Hussein’s regime was certainly evil, but Iraq was not a terrorist state. It had no significant relationship with any terrorist organization as the American, British, and Israeli intelligence agencies knew. In fact, Osama bin Laden, a religious fundamentalist, had offered to raise a military force to fight Saddam’s secular government and denounced Saddam with the strongest condemnation a Muslim can utter, that he was a kafir, a godless person. Despite the findings of official American investigations, however, the rallying cries stick in our minds. Seven in 10 Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was working with Osama bin Laden in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
While that is wrong, Iraq has changed under American blows so that it is now a prime recruiting ground and justification for terrorism. As the commander of the 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, put it just before the attack on Fallujah, “After we take Fallujah, the terrorists will have no sanctuary, nowhere to hide.” I remember similar words about the Vietcong. And within a day after the general said this, fighting broke out in a dozen Iraqi cities. The Russians could have told General Natonski that a decade after they did to the Chechen city of Grozny what his troops did to Fallujah, fighting continued. That is what we are now seeing in Iraq.

In fact, the Viet Cong was a spent firecracker after the debacle of the Tet Offensive. The Communists lost their insurgent arm and were forced to fight from across the borders of South Vietnam.
The fighting in Iraqi cities demonstrates the truth of General Natonski’s statement—there is no sanctuary from which insurgents can escape combat; combat has been brought to their places of refuge.

Dr. Polk argues that Vietnam, Algeria, and Palestine demonstrate the inevitability of our failure in Iraq.
The first option has been called “staying the course.” In practice, that means continued fighting. France “stayed the course” in Algeria in the 1950s as America did in Vietnam in the 1960s and as the Israelis are now doing in occupied Palestine. It has never worked anywhere. In Algeria, the French employed over three times as many troops—nearly half a million—to fight roughly the same number of insurgents as America is now fighting in Iraq. They lost. America had half a million soldiers in Vietnam and gave up. After four decades of warfare against the Palestinians, the Israelis have achieved neither peace nor security.
…[Another] step, more difficult, is to make a truce and pull back its forces. If President Bush could be as courageous as Gen. Charles de Gaulle was in Algeria when he called for a “peace of the brave,” fighting would quickly die down. This is not wishful thinking; it is what happened time after time in guerrilla wars.”

The problems of Palestine involve long-term alterations of borders and the permament dispersal of populations; despite the a lack of a positive, democratic alternative to Communism in South Vietnam our withdrawal was by no means inevitable; Douglas Porch in The French Foreign Legion argues that the FLN was by no means dominant among the Algerian nationalist factions until DeGaulle recognized it as such and negotiated French withdrawal in terms that would permit the FLN to dominate independent Algeria, a political development that was not necessitated by the course of military action and therefore of dubious ‘courage’.

Dr. Polk’s examples simply do not apply to the temporary occupation of an intact state for the purpose of reconstructing it along democratic lines.

Dr. Polk disputes the value of the entire Iraqi democracy project:
...In Iraq, America inherited neither a government nor an army. It is trying to create both. Not surprisingly, the results are disappointing. Most Iraqis regard the American-selected and American-created government as merely an American puppet. And the idea that America can fashion a local militia to accomplish what its powerful army cannot do is not policy but fantasy. An Iraqi army is unlikely to fight insurgents with whom soldiers sympathize and among whom they have relatives.
...Much has been made also of the constitution we wrote for the Iraqis. It reads well, as did the one the British wrote for the Iraqis 80 years ago in 1924, but it is not anchored in the realities of Iraqi society. Absent the institutions that give life to a constitution, it will be simply a piece of paper as was the one the British provided.
...[Another] option is to choose to get out rather than being forced. Time is a wasting asset; the longer the choice is put off, the harder it will be to make. The steps required to implement this policy need not be dramatic, but the process needs to be unambiguous. The initial steps could be merely verbal: America would have to declare unequivocally that it will give up its lock on the Iraqi economy, will cease to spend Iraqi revenues as it chooses, and will allow Iraqi oil production to be governed by market forces rather than by an American monopoly…then could Iraqis themselves set about creating a national consensus. It would probably not come through elections, although they might legitimize the process. We would probably not like the government that emerged, but we are already beyond being able to control that choice. What we should help and encourage is the essentially indigenous process of building civil institutions. Only as they emerge will some form of reasonably peaceful, reasonably free, reasonably decent government have a chance. This is the most sensitive and difficult part of the whole affair. It cannot be rushed, and we cannot do it for the Iraqis.

America's policy in Iraq since the end of major combat has been to pressure Iraqis to take on more and more control of their destinies. They have controlled their government since July 2004; they have assembled and dissolved assemblies of increasing responsibility, peacefully, on schedule, in the pursuit of an eventual democratic regime; they continue to recruit and train tens of thousands of volunteers for the protection of this peaceable political process against all enemies foriegn and domestic. An analysis that rests not on these concrete achievements of the present, but on a flawed understanding of past conflicts thousands of miles away in previous decades, using stale statistics to boot, is a recipe for total disaster.

Fairness perhaps requires me to stress that these articles appeared prior to the January elections; fairness would also require me to point out that those elections would not have occurred if these men, and many others like them, had been given the policies they demanded of the Administration.

It should be interesting to see if these learned gentlemen alter their opinions on Iraq, based on recent events. Keep an eye on Foriegn Affairs and American Conservative for any further articles by either James Dobbins or William R. Polk...but don't hold your breath.

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