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Cry Me A Riverbend II

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Response to Last Commie of the West

In the comments section of Raed's site, I told Last Commie Of The West

If that's true, then Germany was a puppet regime until 1989 since it relied on US forces to protect it from the Soviet Union. For that matter, I could say the same for all of Europe.

Last Commie of the West responded:

And to a certain degree I would agree with you, we were on a certain level of foreign policy a pupet of the US - I'm speaking of Germany not for the rest of Europe, I leave that to others.But the Soviet Union, was an exclusively outside threat.I know, the answer from you well be that all (or most of) the insurgence are coming from the outside. If this is the problem, then why aren't you able to close, or at least controll, the broder properly? Instead of blaming the Syrians for not doing enough - and I agree that Syria has not done all it could (presumably because they have an interest in Iraq not getting stabilised), but even if they did, they hardly have the finaces and power to do it anyway.

Oh! I didn't realize when I said that that you yourself were German. And it's nice to see that I can even agree with the Last Commie in the West. I feel so retro! My response is three-fold.

  1. I disagree that Germany was a puppet regime. Was the public influenced in its voting and priorities by having another nation devote so many resources its protection? Probably. But that just means Germans were voting with their own security in mind.

  2. Iraq has a lot of border to patrol. We can't even keep peaceful immigrants from Mexico from crossing our own borders.

  3. I don't believe that most of the insurgency comes from outside. Many of the weapons and finances come from outside...there are some foreign fighters but many of them (like Zarqawi) were invited in by Saddam and hedged his power. I don't consider that outside.

    The problem is that we can't get enough Iraqis (especially the Sunni Arabs) to take the initiative in reporting, let alone crushing, terrorist cells in their own neighborhoods and mosques. I DO believe that the Sunni Arabs and certain other minority communities (like the Palestinians) considered their position in Iraq under Saddam to be better than those of other groups. Many look on that period with nostalgia. To firm up his power, Saddam fed that feeling whenever he could and fed fears of what would happen if the Shiya majority took control. The Sunnis are a minority but there are still millions of them. Its going to be difficult to get them to see that the new Iraq will be a blessing to them, and I don't think we're nearly there yet. I think many of them still believe that after the chaos, another Saddam will rise to treat them specially again.

    At the same time, most (or at least very many) of the Shiya have not yet seen how vital it is for them to take a hand in assuring the new Iraq is a success - and that the Coalition is a valuable tool for them accomplish that. It is not real to them how desperate things will get if the US gives up. They are used to a dictator doing everything for them, and don't see that a Free Country will require that they take personal initiative to put down trouble makers. Also, I suspect the imams are undermining support for the Coalition out of racial and religious prejudice. I've no doubt that Iran is throwing money around as well.

    Only the Kurds (who are mostly Sunnis) who have had the benefit of 12 years of mostly self-rule (thanks to the US and Britain, your welcome) have shown that they - as a group - recognized the stakes involved for them and what they must give to see a new free Iraq for their children. During the uprising in Mosul this weekend, the Kurdish side fought off the terrorists and was pieceful. The police stations on the Sunni Arab side did not. In fact many police helped in the chaos.

    So the road to stablizing Iraq is difficult and expensive which is why the US didn't invade it in 1991, choosing instead to keep Saddam in a box and hoping he would be overthrown. But it is and was necessary, and if anything, came a bit too late.

    But Europe has a lot at stake in seeing Iraq succeed as well, but, in the run up to the Iraq invasion, they seemed more interested in the state of the Kyoto agreement than in a menace who was leading Iraq in to a maelstrom and would soon be free (when they sanctions were dropped as they would be by now) to do the same to his neighbors and the rest of the world. Now it seems to me they would rather the satisfaction of seeing the US fail at something than to avoid having Iraq be divided up by terrorists. Even now, in their words and inactivity, they and many Americans lend support to the neo-Bathists and Islamofacists that their cause is just.

That is a 1000 mile high view of the difficulties in Iraq.


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    By Blogger CMAR II, at 11:04 AM  

  • test

    By Blogger CMAR II, at 11:05 AM  

  • OK seems to be working now, thanks a lot
    You wrote:
    "I disagree that Germany was a puppet regime. Was the public influenced in its voting and priorities by having another nation devote so many resources its protection? Probably. But that just means Germans were voting with their own security in mind."

    I think that a main misunderstanding is a different view of the connotations of 'puppet regime'. I would still argue that to a degree the German foreign, but most importantly the defence policies were not really made in Germany. Does this mean they were not in the German interest? No.
    Puppet, to me, means that if you want to understand a certain behaviour of an actor on the international stage, you have to look somewhere else to find the explanation, namely where the decisions are made - in matters of German defence policy during the Cold-war it was NATO (practically the US), and in matters of the security situation in the current Iraq the coalition authority (practically the US).
    As for how independent Allawi is in other areas of politics is hard to establish at the moment as you don't get a lot of information about anything else, but the security situation. Has Allawi backed Bremer's privatisation of everything but the Oil-industry? What are his plans towards economics? What sort of justice system (set of laws, other than the leader does what he wants - as it was under Saddam) will get installed?
    To discuss how much of a 'puppet' he really is, I would need answers to questions like this, but they aren't that easy to find. So I guess my judgement will have to rest on 'how' or more precisely 'who' makes the policies - and pays the price militarily and financially - in terms of establishing security. And I'm sorry but I can't come to any else conclusion than that they are made in Washington rather than Baghdad. Is this necessarily bad? No, but it remains a fact, and therefore Washington, at the moment, carries the responsibility and if they do succeed they will also earn the praise.
    Where I do think I significantly disagree with you is your optimism. I simply don't see this democratic, pseudo-western (as in similar state and society structure) capitalistic, (as the underlying economic principle, which despite my name is something I think is a good thing as long it is not the only means of shaping politics) and most importantly secular Iraq arise anywhen in the nearer future.
    You wrote,
    "The problem is that we can't get enough Iraqis (especially the Sunni Arabs) to take the initiative in reporting, let alone crushing, terrorist cells in their own neighbourhoods and mosques."
    As much as I do agree with you over this, I simply don't see a plausible solution to change it. You are an outsider and as such you will find it incredibly difficult to explain to the general people why their some of their own people (the trouble makers, or however you want to call them) are more of a threat to them than you are. Riverbend is a very good example. She is by no means a militant and even comparatively educated, but you get the same nationalistic phrases and explanations. 'We' versus 'Them'. To break this is very hard, if possible in the short term at all.
    But Riverbend & Co are your least problem. The real problems will be the millions of poor and very poorly educated people, to whom it is not so much a question of politics (negotiation, conversation and compromise) but of religion (ultimate believes, ideas of heretics, infidels and so on - unfortunately very little space for discussion and negotiation).
    I don't think the elections will solve these problems, on the contrary I fear they will clearly bring them to the forefront, with people such as Al-Sadr and the like quite possibly winning or at least gaining huge influence. You mentioned the Imams, another group of people who would loose power in your future version of Iraq. At the moment, they have massive influence over the ordinary poor people, and I don't think they are going to give this up towards a 'civil society' without a fight.
    T cut short a long argument,
    I think that your (America's) attempt to transform Iraq out of a society that could be roughly equated with Europe of the Renaissance into a society of western modernism is at best not very easy at worst an impossible attempt that can go very wrong - An Iraq somewhere along the Iranian lines. Armed missionaries irrelevant of what they actually preached have a tendency to fail, at least in a historical context.

    But, and you are very right about that,
    "Europe has a lot at stake in seeing Iraq succeed as well".
    And clearly it would be in the interest of Europe to see your future vision of Iraq come true - even if somehow my intellectual ego, wants to be right and therefore somehow feels justified by all the horror that is going on in Iraq. This is unfortunate, I hate it about myself, but I guess this is the price for being a political realist/pessimist (I'm not equating the two, but the concept of political realism is very pessimistic). Yet once I swallowed this, I clearly share your hopes for Iraq, and I do admit that Europe could have taken an, a bit more constructive path in Iraq, although I hope with the last summit this is still going to happen.
    Yet I can try to explain it at least in parts.
    A) Your administration has not behaved very diplomatically before the war, and to a certain extend European reluctance to help is the very direct result of this. If you boast around that you don't need multilateralism, and the point of view of others is irrelevant because you are the hegemon, then I'm sorry but it isn't very surprising, that if you do get into trouble, none is particularly keen to help you - this is very much disregarding the people of Iraq, I know, but this is politics not a charity shop.
    B) That we didn't support the war in Iraq, had little to do with Kyoto - although the very hostile dismissal of it didn't make you a lot of friends in Europe - but that we didn't, and I personally still don't, see your future version of Iraq after taking out Saddam. To go into a country and taking out the power structure is easy - as long you have the military superiority. Replacing it with a new one, along the lines of what you think would be best, is a different and a very difficult operation (And Europe knows that first hand because we tried - and to a certain level succeeded - over two centuries). And quite frankly we did not share the same level of fear of Saddam. Yes he was little pathetic dictator who had killed a huge number of people. Many other dictators did and still do - often with the blessing of the west (Musharaf?) - the same. He started two wars. One with the explicit blessing of the west (Iran), and one where he clearly miscalculated (Kuwait). Was it particularly difficult to put him back in his place? Not really.
    Yet he did clearly hold the power within Iraq and therefore as much as we might despise what he did, he was the person to deal with. I do share the view that a halfway controllable dictator is better than uncontrollable anarchy. This is not moral, but pragmatic. And even if Saddam was such a desperate inconvenience - and he never was a real 'threat' - at least just execute him, instead of invading the country with all the possible backlashes. (It's against international law, ok, but clearly it should have been able to get an assasin into Iraq?)
    Yes I admit, I - and I think a good deal of continental politicians - were prepared to deal with Saddam, try to influence him somehow - and I think he was very influencable as long as he saw some possible gain for himself - lift the sanctions and hope that the economic development of Iraq would lead to a societal development that might eventually, presumably only after his death, lead to a somehow more democratic or at least less dictatorial Iraq. Just as Syria has improved (even if apparently unnoticed by Washington) under Assad junior a lot more than under Assad senior in terms of human rights and so on.
    C) Now provided that we were right and you won't succeed in Iraq in establishing a democratic society (And for a moment just try to imagine the possibility) - maybe because imposing democracy from the outside doesn't work, or maybe simply because the Iraqi society wasn't quite ready for democracy - we will have to deal with the final outcome. Whether it might turn out to be a western friendly dictator or more distressingly a religious influenced class (the mullahs) or most distressingly a civil war.
    This might to a certain extent explain European reluctance to be too closely associated with American Middle East policies in general and Iraq in particular. Because, as much as I hope for the Iraqi people that America does succeed in establishing a 'better' Iraq, if you don't, it might very well be in the interest of the west to have some force that is prepared to deal with, and might get accepted by an alternative outcome.
    I hope I could clarify some of the 'Kerryite' views of Europe and you can better understand just why the world is not embracing America for something that is, and I don't question that, well intended. But good intention does not always lead to a good outcome.

    By Blogger last commie of the west, at 2:27 PM  

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