Monday, October 10, 2005

Beyond the Pottery Barn Rule

A Washington Post Op-ed by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) brought back to mind some of my own thinking on the debacle in Iraq:

Our military leaders have long told us that there can be no purely military solution in Iraq and that a genuine, broad-based political settlement among the Iraqis is essential for success and for the defeat of the insurgency.

There is, however, one point on which leaders of the three main groups in Iraq agree: None of the Iraqi groups wants U.S. troops to leave precipitately. The Shiites want us to stay until Iraqi security forces are strong enough to deal with the insurgency on their own. The Kurds want us to remain for the impending future. And the Sunni Arab leaders want us to stay as a deterrent to those who might seek revenge against them for the actions of Saddam Hussein.

We must use that leverage -- the possibility of an American withdrawal -- to achieve the broad-based political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency.

Senator Levin, sadly, backs off the idea of an actual time-table, but his thinking is at least moving in the right direction. The point I've made before, is that real deadlines have a wonderful ability to focus the mind. And I'm not talking about target dates for writing a constitution, I'm talking about a we're leaving by December 2006 so you'd better get your sorry butts in gear 'cos we ain't gonna be around so save them for you kind of deadline.

Now this may seem harsh, but after 3 years, 1,900 dead, tens of thousands maimed and wounded and $200+ billion and rising, when is enough enough? How much more blood and gold are we going to spend to allow Iraqis the freedom to enact an Islamic theocratic democracy? How much longer will we continue to prevent Iraqis killing Iraqis in a civil war by having them kill our soldiers instead?

And besides, as I've posited before, a withdrawal timetable may have a salubrious effect on Iraqi leadership.
Stay with me here, but try this scenario on for size: Against all expectations for reasonable behavior, under immense public pressure BushCorp™ finally sets a withdrawal timetable, with US troops starting to leave Iraq by the end of 2005, and with total withdrawal set for November 2006 (Bush crows about bringing our boys and girls home in time for Thanksgiving - let him).

Immediately after this announcement virtually nothing changes. Why? Who's going to start believing Bush at this late date? So the suicide attacks continue and the Iraqi Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds keep bickering away. But as the months crawl toward December 2005 and US begins pulling some troops back to central locations three things happen, the foreign-import jihadists continue their attacks unabated, the anti-occupation sympathizers begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, and the Iraqi government elements begin to realize that if they don't work something out soon they're toast.

3 months into 2006, after a quarter of US troops have been withdrawn, the foreign insurgent attacks are beginning to falter as anti-occupation insurgents loose patience with their former jihadists brothers, and have fewer qualms about dropping a dime to the newly invigorated Iraqi government, which, under the threat of its own annihilation, has finally reached agreement between its disparate factors.

Meanwhile, back in the states, Army recruiting is back on track, improved Iraqi stability drops oil prices below $50/barrel, and the American public is finally making government focus on the domestic issues it's been ignoring since 9/11/01.

June 2006, the Iraqi government announces full amnesty for all native born Iraqi's, as well as a yearly stipend from its oil profits (having wisely placed almost all of it forces to defend the nation's oil reserves and utility infrastructure). The remaining Iraqi forces are replacing US troops along the Syrian border who've been spending the remainder of their time making sure no additional foreign insurgents enter the country. Insurgent attacks are becoming more and more infrequent as fresh recruits dwindle, along with Iraqi sympathizers. The Iraqi government begins a campaign to drive out "all foreign aggressors" and is cheered by the vast majority of its people.

September 2006, BushCorp™ under pressure from its corporate sponsors, tries to hedge on its November withdrawal deadline, explaining that it only wants to keep a small force of "military advisors". After rejecting the Iraqi government's demand that BushCorp™ follow the timetable, Democrats follow public sentiment by calling for Bush to resign or face impeachment.

November, 2006, the Republican Senators and Congressmen who survive the mid-term election have done so by promising to follow the public's will and seek a full and fair accounting for BushCorp™ war crimes.

January 2007,BushCorp™, in a last ditch effort to save itself pulls all remaining US troops from Iraq. The anti-occupationalists dance in the streets of Baghdad, the lone remaining foreign insurgent unleashes hell by blowing himself up in his apartment trying to build just one more IED, the Iraqi government argues over redesign of its new parliament building.

In the US, in an unprecedented, though not unexpected move, Congress impeaches BOTH President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. Having been found guilty of obstructing Congress in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, as well as of violating US and international law for permitting the use of torture, Bush retires to a life of brush-clearing in Crawford, while Cheney retires to an undisclosed location.

House speaker, now President, Pelosi announces "the nightmare is over" then proceeds to talk about her national priorities of energy independence and universal healthcare.

Colin Powell once famously warned that with Iraq we are bound by the "Pottery Barn Rule": you break it, you own it.

As it turns out, Pottery Barn has no such rule.

And neither should Iraq.

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