Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Iraqi thoughts

VDH summarises the situation on the ground in Iraq - and the geopolitical fallout, very well here. I've always said, even at the height of the insurgency, and will say again now: The quickest victory, with the fewest casualties, in the history of warfare!

There is a terrific book, that puts this all in perspective, by Norman Podhoretz - "World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism" (he describes WWIII as the Cold War, ending when the Berlin wall fell)...T

The New Iraqi Debate

Now that the Democrats suspect that the U.S. is not only not losing Iraq, but may well “win”—victory being defined by stabilizing the country with a radical cessation of violence—expect the critique suddenly to morph as well.

We will soon hear that the war, while granted that it may be winnable, was not worth the commensurate cost, from liberal critics who have embraced much of the realist and neo-isolationist creed of the past (at least apart from Darfur). That is a legitimate debate—as long as opponents accept that it is a fallback position, and Harry Reid was mistaken when he announced the war “lost”.

Also expect Democrats to find ways to exaggerate the aggregate costs (like counting the rise from 20-100 dollars a barrel for oil entirely due to the Iraqi war without notice of the new Chinese/Indian demand, unrest in Africa, and declining production from the UK to the US), while Republicans will claim that Iraq is part of a larger existential war against Islamic extremism. How to resolve the dispute?

It depends on whether Iraq is stable—and the effect it has on Lebanon, Iran, Syria, the Palestinians, etc. I know such thinking is now dubbed “Neocon” warmongering and worse, but should the constitutional government in Iraq encourage reform in the region, then it would be impossible to compute all the multifarious ways in which that would contribute to world stability and US security. We’ll see, and 2008 for a variety of reasons will be interesting to say the least.

Iraqi Turn-about

I posted this thought the other day on NRO about the radical change in Iraq. There are three sub-texts rarely discussed—at least publicly—about the so-called Anbar awakening. First, oil is now $98 a barrel. Even with oil production still not quite at 2003 levels, the Iraqi government is raking in an enormous amount of cash—the equivalent of Iraq pumping about 7-8 million barrels per day at the 2002-3 price. Even if oil production were to stay flat (and some think it may climb to over 3 million b. a day by next year), Iraq might earn per annum well over $70 billion from oil alone at the present price. And for all the inefficiency and corruption, the money is starting to permeate Iraq, as any can attest from the storefronts stuffed with consumer goods and the astronomical climb in Iraqi demand for electricity. And Iraq is not the Saudi desert, but has the richest and best irrigated land in the Middle East, with an ideal commercially-strategic location, all suggesting that without Saddam’s wastrels, the country could very rapidly turn things around.

Second, the US military has eliminated a large number of terrorists, insurgents and general terrorists since 2003. Given the noxious fumes of Vietnam-era “body-counts” we don’t mention this. But many of the sheiks suffered horrendous losses among their tribes to the US in the past four years that led to some demoralization and the simple absence of their more skilled and veteran fighters. So, when they weighed the odds—increasing oil-generated wealth on the one hand versus being mowed down by the US on the other—the choice was to join us.

Third, for all the criticism of the Shiite government, it continued to function despite hourly threats and constant assassinations, both from Iranian-backed extremists and Sunni-backed Al-Qaedists. It has been a congressional pastime to trash the Iraqis, but few people in the world have so braved daily mayhem and still clung to a constitutional government process, however sometimes exasperating.

I’m not suggesting that the repugnance of al Qaeda, concern that the US pressure the Shiite government to help Sunnis, or machinations about the future did not play a role in bringing the Sunni tribes to our sides. But the notion that life could be pretty good with oil wealth and without US bullets—coupled with the acknowledgment that the elected government wasn’t going to quit or flee—played a large role in turning things around.
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