Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Discussion of Plan Murtha

The details of a plan for an orderly withdrawal from Iraq are being discussed by the American people. In the Spring of 2004 I posted on my blog an imaginary interview with John Kerry in which he called for us to "pull back divisions to the borders, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and keep troops confined to bases ready to restore order if they have to..." ("The Elephant in the Room" which is a compilation of these blog posts, page 79.)

I also called for an internationalization of the peacekeeping force, with one big difference from what generally makes the rounds among policy-makers: it should, as far as possible, be drawn from Muslim nations, to take the steam out of Al Qaeda's Crusaders vs. Islam propoganda. On page 31 of the book I said that by doing so:
"the gravest humiliation to the insurgents can be removed. Armed, gibberish-speaking infidels with no knowledge of Arabic custom or religion, searching homes and patting down Muslim women is creating terrorists, and American troops are admitting it."

Congressman John Murtha's recent, now-famous speech calls for "an over-the-horizon presence of Marines" and "a quick reaction force in the region." Iraq veteran and congressional candidate Andrew Duck (Sixth District, Maryland) does not support a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. On his website, though, he puts forward a plan for success that includes transitioning to an international force, closing Guantanamo, energy independence within 10 years, and increasing literacy in the Muslim world. The following is an entry on his website in which Congressman Murtha's plan for withdrawal from Iraq is discussed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 23, 2005 - 10:21am.

Andrew and Lea,

I think Iraq will not stay together as one country. I believe a partition of Iraq is the way to adjust to the realities there.

Iraq is really not 1 country: it is 3 countries, of 3 different peoples- the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shia. The history of violence and ethnic cleansing in this area is so stark that I don't think a unified government is possible-or even advisable.

Andrew, you should know this, based on your experience in the Balkans. There, Clinton used air power to split apart ethnic/sectarian groups, not put those groups together. I think something similar could be tried in Iraq: use air power to maintain general "no fly, no drive" zones between the 3 ethnic groups to stop invasions and massive attacks upon the US withdrawal- such withdrawal which should start immediately. While there are general areas of these 3 ethnic groups, there will still be enclaves of various ethnic groups found within each of the 3 new states. Their protection will be addressed through non-aligned courts, discussed next.

There will still be violence even as the US leaves: car bombings, assassinations, sabotaging of oil facilities and pipelines, will continue. To help bring this level of violence down, we could ask non-aligned countries- like Brazil and South Africa- to lend their judges to attempt to adjudicate criminal, civil violations, border disputes, and access to oil. At first, the peoples of the region are unlikely to accept any such legal assistance. But, if these judges issue rulings which are fair-even if not accepted or able to be put into effect at first- over time, the battered peoples of the region may see such legal recourse as an alternative to settling scores through violence. Also, the peoples have to realize that there will be enclaves of ethnic groups belonging to the other groups living among them: recourse to legal courts would be better than the alternative, which would be retaliatory actions against their ethnic group in the other country.

Reconstruction aid could be predicated on the resulting 3 nations (Sunnistan, Shiastan, and Kurdistan) having some modicum of a democratic framework, respect for some basic civil rights (especially rights of women), and willingness to implement the court decisions referenced above.

We can have our troops begin an immediate withdrawal, and use air power to provide general protection from invasions between the 3 new countries in the area, while assisting non-aligned countries to help with legal assistance to adjudicate disputes which will continue to be ongoing. All of this will get the Americans out now, and work to block major violence, and develope ways to gradually diminish the continuing violence there between the 3 groups.

While I'm not opposed to UN or other powers acting to intervene in the area, I don't think it's realistic that this will happen. Even if the Europeans intervene- with the prospect of obtaining control over contracts/ oil-then those powers will be colonial powers themselves, and just as reprehensible.

As for withdrawal, we should immediately start withdrawing US forces. I think we can get those forces out of the area in a very short time, as little as 1 month (if their equipment is destroyed) and perhaps even faster if the forces just drive out. Other folks believe that a 6 month withdrawal is more likely, but either way, those troops will be gone quickly.

Note: as there is concern about the safety of the Kurds vis-a-vis Turkey (since Turkey is hostile to the Kurds because of a long civil struggle in its country involving the Kurdish minority), it might be a good idea to station some US forces in Kurdistan as a block against Turkey. The Kurds are very pro-US, and the forces would be welcomed there. It's also easy to withdraw these forces into Kurdistan by merely driving there, which is only a couple of hundred miles away for a great number of them.

Finally, as Iran will grow in influence upon the American departure, we should realize that other countries will step into the vacuum to check Iran's expansion: countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia (one could see a scenario where the Saudis make a defense arrangement with Turkey to protect them from Iran; this will result in a huge cash flow to Turkey-which is relatively poorer and could use it-and would help alleviate anger in Turkey over the developments in Kurdistan). Eventually, you might even see some interesting defense alliances occur in the American absence: say Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and even Sunnistan all being on the same side, to check Iran, Shiastan, the Palestinian Authority, and Lebanon on the other.

Thus, deterrance could occur in response to the Iranian expansion- even in the absence of American forces.

Withdraw, Partition, Deter. I think this is the formula which will work in the area.

Chris Bush

Chris and the Rest,

I agree that the Europeans in the UN want no part of Bush's Iraq mess; if he could have pulled them in to get shot at instead of us he would have done so by now. But I have been saying for a long time in my blog that peacekeeping troops from predominantly Muslim nations, like Indonesia, mixed under a UN flag would do a lot to take the steam of of bin Laden's anti-Crusader message, which is one his most powerful recruiting tools. Middle Easterners are acutely aware of their history going back to the Middle Ages, and they see Iraq as the latest in a long string of attempts by the West (formerly Europe, now the U.S.
too) to take their lands and convert them. This is why you see bin Laden tee-shirts all over the Middle East.

Chris has some good ideas on how to keep Iraqis from slaughtering each other once we are gone. Iraq as a unified entity is probably a fantasy, and using air
power along the Bosnia model to keep them apart might be more realistic. The strange alliances that may emerge will be part of a natural process of power moving in to fill a vacuum, which can be good because we will have heads of state to deal with instead of the total chaos that now provides a perfect breeding ground for terrorists.

I differ slightly with my fellow withdraw-the-troops-now proponents in that I think we should redeploy a good number of troops coming out of
Iraq into Afghanistan, where we still have a legitimate stabililzation mission and maybe half a chance of getting European help. It is also a base from which to criss-cross the Afghan-Paki border regions looking for the people who attacked us on 9/11. This is what Michael Scheuer of "Imperial Hubris" fame says we should have done right after 9/11, while even those opposed to us would not dare say anything because every night you could still see the towers smoldering on television. Al Qaeda would be in tatters now and the world would still be on our side.

Instead, George Bush used it to make a renewed stab at empire, to undermine our constitutional rights at every chance, and to personalize the war on terror into a scheme to get the guy he thinks tried to kill his daddy. Can you believe Jose Padilla is only now being charged with a crime, after 3 years in a military prison? This is what GWB has in mind for American citizens, first dumb kids like Padilla (who probably thought he was running drugs), then radio talkshow hosts giving "aid and comfort to the enemy" by criticizing the president in wartime and the like.

The attack on Iraq has played right into bin Laden's hands, with his clearly-stated goal of destabilizing and toppling allied governments in the Middle East starting to materialize. The recent attacks in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, as well as electoral victories by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are all signs that bin Laden's dream is going according to plan. By attacking Iraq on the grounds that he would not allow a phantom WMD threat to "materialize," Bush has materialized a true threat: the US kicked out of the Middle East, terrorists trained in Iraq attacking us here, no access to Middle Eastern oil, and everyone in the world hating us for re-electing this guy and thinking we deserve it.

Our safest course is a clean break with Bush's Iraq war, with an apology for the civilians killed, and re-focusing on the job of destroying Al Qaeda. We need about 10,000 Arabic languages translators, not a new generation of fighter-jet pork for defense contractors. We should also force our Middle Eastern allies like Saudi Arabia to give their people the freedoms and opportunities that now belong only to our buddies, the royal families. It's a pleasure to find this thoughtful discussion on Andy's website.

Ralph Lopez


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