The current conventional (and self-serving) wisdom among GOP stalwarts and Bush-bots (same thing) is that GWB had the Iraq “war” (really occupation) “won,” and all the Bad Stuff that has happened since was entirely Barack Obama’s fault.
Well, here’s an excerpt from a long piece I wrote back in August of 2007, pointing out my view of the disastrous future in Iraq already set in stone by GWB’s disastrous prosecution of the “War on (Some) Terror.”
I think it stands the test of time quite well.
I have added my own gloss to commentary on events as they unfold – for instance, I debated at length with Steven Den Beste here at DP over the question of Bush’s leadership skills, and the fact that the “political opposition” bugaboo so often cited by Bush apologists is essentially a creation of GWB himself, thanks to his waffling, horrible public communication skills, and lack of a clear and cohesive strategy with which to attack our enemies. Give his gross failures of leadership, it is certainly no surprise that a widespread opposition was able to coalesce and grow. I also debated with him whether “Democracy in Iraq” was suitable as a solitary goal within the greater War on Terror – given that if the invasion had initially been presented to the American people as a war to bring democracy to Iraq – and nothing else – America would not, I don’t believe, have supported the invasion.
Now, as to Iraq and Anbar province: we are debating the dreg-ends of an utterly failed strategy. Allow me to describe the critical flex points:
1. The failure in 2003 to arm the Shia under Sistani and the Kurds, and let them take care of the Saddamist survivors of the regime. Instead, most likely at the behest of the Saudis, we tried to play it cute and create a tripartite, Federalist Iraq, with a strong role for the Saudi allies of the Saddamist, Sunni tribes. This resulted in creating huge mistrust of our aims and goals among the majority Shia, and greatly fueled Moqtada al-Sadr’s meteoric rise to power. And with the rise of al-Sadr, we got an equally large expansion of Iranian power inside Iraq.
2. The failure to kill al-Sadr when we had the chance: See point one.
3. The Fallujah fiasco. Once again, we gave the Shia (whom, recall, had already been massively betrayed by a previous George Bush in the post-Gulf War period) even more reason to distrust our intentions. It also helped shift power among Iraq’s Shia away from the potentially anti-Iranian cleric ali-Sistani to the Iranian surrogate al-Sadr. It also demonstrated that even with the most grisly of incentives – those butchered., charred American corpses dangling from a bridge – we would not respond with overwhelming force. Instead, we would turn Fallujah over to Saddamist Sunni generals!
I could go on, and on – the various “campaigns” in Iraq that were supposed to “seal the borders” and “subdue resistance from Saddamist ‘insurgents’,” but why bother? Suffice to say, we managed to do everything possible to anger every possible faction in Iraq – mostly because we had no clear idea of why we were there, or what we were trying to accomplish. And, frankly, we still do not, beyond getting the hell out of there with as little shame as possible, and as minimal damage to the GOP as possible.
More than a year ago, we were creating a “ring of fire” that was supposed to subdue the “insurgents” of Anbar once and for all. Of course, all it did was shift our various enemies from one location to another, after which they poured right back to where they had been once we left – as, inevitably, we always did.
Now, today, those same Sunni “insurgents” are our “allies,” not because we have subdued or even defeated them, but mostly because they have figured out that we are going to leave, and that as they prepare for the inevitable attacks to come from the Shia militias and, probably, central government forces as well, they might as well try to seek an alliance with us in hopes that we might help to restrain the Shia from slaughtering them all. But as the Shia know full well, depending on the US for protection is a forlorn hope at best.
Here is what those who think the surge is working have to figure out how to explain: First, we will leave Iraq, sooner rather than later. That fact is dictated, not by military necessity, not by a global anti-Islamist-terror strategy, but by domestic US politics. And while true believers may try to comfort themselves with the idea that we will keep a “meaningful presence” in Kurdistan, I expect that to turn out to be a pipe dream as well. If it is politically impossible for us to remain in Iraq proper, with the minimal casualties we have experienced there, why do you expect that we will be permitted to remain peacefully in Kurdistan? There are Kurdish groups who are well aware that there are benefits to being allied to a nuclear Iran, and no guarantees that Iran won’t direct them against the American for a host of reasons.
So once we are gone, what of the surge? If it had any raison d’etre that might make sense…oh, hell, what am I saying? There is no rationale that makes sense. We cannot establish a stable government in Iraq without our presence there. But we aren’t going to be there, and therefore, there is not going to be a stable government, not with Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia (and factions within Pakistan) still perfectly free to project their power into Iraq in whatever way they wish, while at the same time the Sunni tribes will (for a while, at least until they are destroyed) fighting a war to the death with the vastly more powerful Shia and their Iranian allies. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see an Iraqi government “invite” the Revolutionary Guard in to “help” them “quell the unrest in the Sunni territories.”
This needn’t have happened. But once George Bush decided to define “victory” as “the establishment of stable democratic government in Iraq,” rather than “the utter destruction of the Saddamist regime,” any other outcome was doomed.
There is considerably more, including some back and forth between me and Ardolino in the comments, if you’re interested. But I just want to point out that almost everything that has occurred in Iraq in the time since I wrote that post was clearly predictable well before Barack Obama had ever risen much above the American political horizon.
UPDATE: Yeah, I’m pissing on the graves of Den Beste’s and Ardolino’s arguments, pretty much. I was right, they were wrong. Sue me.