Thursday, September 23, 2004

Thinking Through Iraq

I suppose I´ve been waiting for people to think seriously through what´s going on in Iraq, and what should be done about it (I prefer that to 'muddling through'). I would have done more myself but I have neither the experiences or the training to make that natural, so it´s great to find others doing it.

Ever since it became apparent the Sunni resistance wasn´t fading away it it seemed likely that someone, somewhere, had a real strategy, and that person or those persons, or that culture, wasn´t on our side.

Healing Iraq has a great post on the strategy of the terrorist-Sunni-Baathist alliance.

Arthur Chrenkoff, meanwhile, fills in another part of the equation- the reluctance of the Iraqi populace to make the effort to cooperate sufficiently with the reconstruction process to end the foolish and dangerous resistance.

I particularly like what he has to say about the effects of totalitarianism on the people subjugated:

'Nothing, however, in our generally safe and comfortable existence would helps us understand just how pervasively difficult, destructive and dispiriting the experience of life under a totalitarian regime is. For most of us, life in Saddam's Iraq would have been no more real than the Middle Earth of the colonial New England'

Money Talking Explosively

Some great stuff on Iraq from Austin Bay, who just recently got back from there. It's about how the nice, clean US military has met Iraq's entrenched thug culture, which unfortunately drips money. I've always felt that money was a massively underrated part of the 'resistance' story- I wonder why that could be, Koffi?

It puts into perspective the fundraising activities of certain European groups- and I bet that is just scratching the surface, since I don't expect the BBC to actually investigate anything much, certainly not in areas that might assist the efforts of the coalition.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Casualty Count.

I was very sorry to learn that there were a significant number of casualties suffered by US forces in Iraq in the middle of last week. Not what I wanted to see, but not unexpected.

Wretchard has a breakdown of fatalities on his Belmont Club blog, which makes interesting if sombre reading.

I'll just give my response.

Wretchard points out that most of the fatalties are still taking place in the Sunni triangle, thus somewhat dispelling fears about civil war in Iraq. I've noticed for a long time (even on this blog) the preponderance of casualties in the Al-Anbar province.

I expected an upsurge to occur because July/August was relatively quiet there, while al-Sadr danced his merry destructive dance in Najaf. I took it that the forces of the Sunni fighters further North and West were preparing for another push against US forces in the run-up to the US election.

One interesting thing of recent times is the occurrence of violence in Mosul. Last year this was one of the quietest parts of Iraq- and featured by BBC journalist Jonny Diamond as a success for softly-softly tactics. Soon after that hell broke loose, and violence has been on a gradual upcurve ever since that outbreak (to my eye).

As Diamond points out, there is an ethnic divide between Arab and Kurd in that area. In fact, what's regularly underplayed is that Saddam relocated a lot of Arabs into towns like Mosul and Kirkuk in order to keep his thumb firmly on the Kurdish population there. Naturally they will resent the loss of their god (or Saddam)-given superiority, and fear reprisals (both short and long-term) too- some of which have already happened.

What this demonstrates for me is that among the most miguided of mentalities is that of the softly-softly approach. Pretending a volcano isn´t there doesn´t stop, in BBC language, ´violence erupting´

I think again that you have to be wary when things are too quiet. The calm in Mosul was more about regrouping to see how they could reassert Arab dominance than to see what democratic role they could find. The first instinct of people in plot-ridden Iraq is obviously to plot rather than politick, especially so for those who gained most from previous plotting.

But I also think it unlikely that Mosul will be all that terrible a place for the coalition. It could play its part if some of the other regions get their sunni-Arab act together the way Fallujah did, but not otherwise. The reason for this is that being ethnically mixed there will always be allies of the coalition who will weaken the Arab-Sunni resistance.

Mark Steyn in the Telegraph has one of his customary punchy articles about the state of Iraq. As usual he sees the big picture, and the good sense in converting our most diehard enemy state into a less bad place. You can´t draw the poison out of places like Mosul all that easily, but it might drain away over time if the right assertive local policies are pursued.

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