iOS app Android app

Cenk Uygur

Cenk Uygur

Posted: December 7, 2005 07:24 AM

The Second War in Iraq


It seems that the Bush administration is having trouble defining victory in Iraq. There’s a good reason for that. That’s because the war was pointless in the first place.

I’m not being flippant. I’m being literal. Remember, the top two reasons given for war was that Iraq had WMD and links to al-Qaeda. Neither of these things was true, so we won the war before we even started.

If our mission was to stop the imminent use of WMD by Iraq – mission accomplished. It turns out that mission was accomplished about ten years ago. If our mission was to get Saddam to stop working with al-Qaeda – mission accomplished. He was never working with them in the first place.

If we go with the third invented reason for the war – bringing democracy to Iraq (no one in Congress voted for the war based on this reasoning – it wasn’t even presented). Then, they are about to have their eighteenth election in a row in Iraq. On December 15th, they will elect an official, constitutionally sound, government that will represent Iraq for the next four years. Mission accomplished.

In reality, democracy requires a balance of power. The United States creates an artificial balance of power by having an overwhelming force on the ground. And the power void we will eventually leave behind, no matter when we leave, will cause an upheaval in that balance of power and inevitably throw Iraq out of equilibrium and into violent conflict. But that discussion is for another day.

So, if all of our missions are accomplished, what’s the problem? What this administration doesn’t tell you (and the Democrats do a woeful job of explaining this as well) is that the reason people are arguing we should stay now is to clean up the problems we created by attacking in the first place.

The current problems in Iraq did not exist before our invasion. There was no sectarian strife spilling into the streets, there were no Sunni-Shiite battles, there was no Sunni insurgency, there were no Shiite death squads. It doesn’t mean life was rosy under Saddam’s dictatorship. But those problems didn’t exist. And those problems are the ones we are fighting now.

By going into Iraq we created the problems we are now trying to fix by staying in Iraq.

Don’t get me wrong, what’s done is done. The Shiite-Sunni-Kurdish problems will exist no matter what from here on out and we have to figure out how to best deal with them. Withdrawal is not a plan. Staying is also not a plan. A strategy that entails us leaving whenever that strategy is accomplished is a plan.

It’s important to remember that the reason we’re staying has absolutely nothing to do with the reason we went in. Because if you are trying to achieve a victory that never was and that never could be, you are fighting the wrong battle.

So, when the President talks about fighting terrorism and the evil-doers in Iraq, ignore him. He’s an idiot. The overwhelming majority of the insurgency is Sunni, as even the President admitted in his last speech. The Sunnis are not any more intrinsically evil than the Shiites. So, why are we siding with the Shiites in this new power struggle that has nothing to do with the original war?

For a long time, I was concerned about the foreign jihadists that had come into Iraq after the war began. I did not want the US to leave while those people could still establish a base and gain power in the area. I am now convinced the local Sunnis will wipe them out as soon as they no longer have a reason to work together, i.e. as soon as we leave.

The foreign terrorists have already picked a fight with the Iraqi Sunni insurgency by glomming on to their racketeering business in the Anbar province. This is no joke, racketeering and protection money from local businesses is one of the primary ways both sides raise money and they have now broken out in open gun battles on the streets because of this conflict.

Besides, if we left Iraq, we could give Sunnis the proper incentives to fight the foreign jihadists without endangering our own troops.

So, what is victory in the new war we are fighting in Iraq and how do we accomplish it? It won’t be possible to answer that fully in this short piece, but let me start to answer. Victory is when the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds have achieved some meaningful balance of power without our presence.

As I explained before, if they achieve a balance now with our heavy presence on the ground, that is a false balance of power that will change as soon as we leave and stop tipping the scales to one side. That is useless. So, we must find a way to exit while we maintain a workable balance of power between all the parties

Calling it a democracy and going home might suit the Democrats purpose, and will soon also suit the Republicans as soon as they see their polls in their local districts. But it doesn’t suit the purpose of peace and stability in the area.

A democracy in name means absolutely nothing if the government is not willing to act like a democracy. So, will the Shiite majority give Sunnis rights and share the oil revenue? That is the only thing that can appease the Sunnis, and thereby get them to slow their insurgency.

Right now, that is not what the Shiite power holders appear to be planning. They appear to be setting up a regime that will take as much of the power and oil revenue as they possibly can. We have to disabuse them of this notion. We have to make it clear to them that this is not in the region’s interest, in our interest, and accordingly, their interest.

In other words, we have to lean on them. It will appear that we are at odds with the “democratically elected” government of Iraq. But in reality, we are just trying to keep a civil war from breaking out by keeping the Shiites from crushing the Sunnis.

The delicate balance of oil rich Kirkuk in northern Iraq, with all of its different warring ethnicities, is another enormous problem. Another enormous problem we didn’t have before the war and one that certainly has nothing to do with whether we were about to be attacked by Iraq or the 9/11 attacks against us. Nonetheless, I have to paraphrase Don Rumsfeld -- we have the war we have, not the war we’d like to have.

There are a slew of incentives and disincentives we could give the Kurds to get them to ease up on the Arab Sunnis in the area (let alone the Turkmen – don’t ask). But pretending there’s a democracy that has nothing to do with all the oil in Kirkuk is preposterous. The Kurds are moving the Arabs out of town forcibly so that they could have more Kurdish votes in town to accommodate that “democracy.” They are structuring the democracy around the oil rather than vice versa.

Yet, we have the President blathering on about the good guys versus the bad guys, and how we are fighting against people who hate freedom. Has there ever been a President whose rhetoric is more irrelevant? Bush certainly knows how to create problems, but it looks like he has absolutely no idea how to solve them.

I’m hoping there are a couple of people in government who are smarter and can get a grasp of what’s happening in Iraq. It’s time to get beyond the original war we thought we were fighting in Iraq and get on to the one we are actually fighting.