When I first heard rumors of what Bush was going to do, I was strongly opposed. Several weeks ago I wrote that it was time for the United States to withdraw to Kurdistan. This position change stemmed from the fact that the political process was not moving forward. Regardless of that the media claims, I define a civil war as what happens when political negotiations fail; it seemed that Iraq was at that point.
And it still may be. But now Bush had put forth a new strategy, that couples increased force for security with major political concessions by the Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister, Malaki. He is offering a massive olive branch to the Sunni Arabs (who comprise the bulk of the insurgency) by addressing four of their main complaints. These are:
1. A new plan to spread oil wealth equally among all Iraqis.
2. Revision to the constitution that would make the future amending process easier.
3. Easing and eliminating many of the de-Baathification policies to allow qualified Sunnis regain their jobs.
4. A promise to fight renegade forces of all sects, including Shia ones.
In addition, we have two other advantages with this changed strategy. The first is new leadership. Some time ago, a certain US military commander was in charge of Basra (a large Iraqi city) and brilliantly orchestrated a political deal with the locals that resulted in peace and security. Unfortunately, this commander's unit was relocated and replaced by a unit using traditional US military doctrine. The situation in Basra quickly deteriorated. This same commander, who was so successful in Basra, has recently been made the commander of all US forces in Iraq.
Our second new advantage comes from the north. The Kurds have a well trained military organization that has turned Kurdistan into an oasis of calm and prosperity in Iraq, known as the Pershmerga. The Kurds have promised to send some of these units to Baghdad, to help secure the capital. These forces will be seen as neutral intermediaries between the Sunni and Shia Arabs who are warring. And the Pershmerga have a knowledge of local language and custom that US troops could only dream of having.
These are real solutions to an enormous problem; a far cry from the inane propaganda that we normally hear from the Bush administration. Unfortunately, it is likely that we will fail. I still support this last effort, however, because the alternative is simply not acceptable. At best, the conflict would stay localized to Iraq and there would only be a bit of ethnic cleansing and genocide. At worst, the war would spread to the wider Middle East. There could be millions of casualties either way. And imagine what oil prices would do in the event of a war between Iran and Saudi Arabia? Kiss the world economy goodbye.
I will greatly regret the US casualties that we will face, but I feel that we owe it to Iraqis and Muslims in general to give it one last shot. And besides, Bush set an implicit timetable in his speech anyways. If there hasnt been serious political gains by November, we're gone.