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Friday, December 08, 2006

The illusions of Washington

It's a cool December morning here in New York, the kind which says winter is here and snow is coming. Not the kind which makes you want to stay in bed or dig out a snow suit, but where a cup of tea and a fleece wrap would warm you.

But cool and clear mornings also work to clear the mind.

We have a problem in Washington. Bush has installed a mental bunker. No matter what people say, it will take a sledge hammer to make him understand that the goals he has for Iraq are as likely to come about as Jenna acting responsibly any time soon.

Paul Eaton was on Nightline last night. Eaton, like most general officers, is an educated man, a smart man, the kind which does America credit. But he was talking about training the Iraqi Army. When Cynthia McFadden asked him if we were really training two sides of a civil war, he didn't really have an answer.

Bush, like many people in Washington, are hoping that we can save this disaster and help bolster the "Iraqi government".

Well, there is no Iraqi government. In something which should have sent red flags through CENTCOM and DC, a couple of weeks ago, we got a preview of Sadr State TV. The Mahdi Army walked into the American taxpayer established state TV station and went on the air for two hours denouncing the government, with live remotes from Sadr City.

Instead, something I think is of earth shattering enormity was played down as just another wacky day in Iraq.

But it wasn't. It was a demonstration of raw, naked power. The kind only winners can do. They could have held that station all night. But they made their point: we can do what we want.

I'm less critical of the ISG report than some, because it has the adults saying this isn't working. Now their solutions may suck, but they have finally broken the stranglehold of Bush's cheerleading on the discussion, actually isolating him. It was the Washington establishment saying end the war. Now, their plan for ending the war sucks, is insane actually, but at least they want an end game.

This emphasis on training the Iraqi Army is a joke. Because there is no Iraqi Army, if Army means an armed body defending a state. The hope they don't discuss is that the Army will eventually coalese around a leader and then form a new government. Only problem is that everyone has already chosen sides and those sides are not the ones the US would like. The Army has been ethnically divided since the Badr Organization filled its ranks. The Americans loved the Wolf Brigade, gave them a TV show, until they realized that they approached their work towards the Sunnis in an Einzatgruppen sort of way, torturing and killing Sunnis at will.

They want to break up the Big Red One to train Iraqis. People who hate them, don't speak Arabic, and may have limited grasp of their own military skills. Yet, they are going to train people looking for a paycheck. Ever wonder why the Mahdi Army has improved steadily since 2003? Well, than the US Army, because we're training them. They go to our facilities, learn our ways, and then realize that Sadr's boys pay better, switch teams.

The Army accepts anyone, people need jobs. But when compared to the benefits offered by the Mahdi Army, more than one army recruit takes their training to Sadr's boys. And even if they didn't, the network of family and tribal ties makes sending an Army to kill their family members a risky proposition.

Why is the Iraqi government so weak? Because it is filled with exiles, academics and clerics. Not the people who actually have a stake in a functioning Iraq. Too many people in the government don't know anything about how one works. Too many seperate agendas have been in play. The Kurds seem doomed to provoke the Turks, the Sunnis refuse to talk, the Shia want to run the country.

They have spent more time worrying about dealing with the Baath party than making the country work. They were simply incapable of the leadership needed to remake a country.

A dangerous US trait is to assess everyone at face value. Just because someone makes money as a porter in the Green Zone doesn't mean that they value that job over their faith. The Iraqis think we're guileless. Both Maliki and Hakim have asked permission for pogroms and think the US will give them. They want US cover to kill Sunnis in large numbers.

There is this idea that there will be a blood bath if the US leaves. Yes, there will be. But this idea that we can leave behind special forces and logistics to fight for an Iraqi government is insane. There is no government. Voting doesn't make a government. The fact is that the choice for secterian violence is an Iraqi choice. They are choosing to kill each other and it isn't our concern.

US troops cannot sustain themselves in Iraq. There will not be a draft. You can only scrape the bottom of the barrel for so long. The longer the US Army stays in Iraq, the less effective it becomes.

posted by Steve @ 7:06:00 AM

7:06:00 AM

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