Top Ten Things Not to Do in Iraq

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Iraq

Ever since the Iraq Study Group (ISG) issued its recommendations, the debate in Washington has swirled around what to do about the mess in Iraq. Unfortunately, both the recommendations of the study group and the contradictory inclinations of the Bush administration are "bridges to nowhere." Both groups are in denial about the chaos in Iraq and are not yet ready to offer the tough solutions that could stabilize the country. Perhaps they should accept the top ten things not to do in Iraq:

  1. Don't send more U.S. troops. By pursuing this course, neoconservative armchair generals-such as Frederick Kagan-who helped Bush get into this mess, want to help him dig the hole deeper. Yet the senior U.S. military officers on the ground in the Middle East are not keen on this option. They realize that the quagmire makes it impossible for U.S. forces to ever succeed, and they have been inclined toward withdrawal. Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell seemed to reflect their views when he said that when deciding whether to send more troops, "I'd want to have a clear understanding of what it is they're going for, how long they're going for. And let's be clear about something else.... There really are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops." Without having a clearly defined reason for sending more troops, the policy collapses into the usual "show the Iraqis and the domestic political audience that the Bush administration means business." But the domestic political audience has long soured on the war and wants the troops to begin coming home and the Iraqis, like Powell, realize that the troop increase is not sustainable in the long-term.

  2. Don't think that sending more U.S. troops is politically sustainable. In a democracy, putting more troops and money into a war that has lost public support rivals the stupidity of invading a country to bring democracy to a fragmented society with no prior democratic experience or culture.

  3. Don't use any extra forces to secure Baghdad. The Bush administration can't seem to accept what the U.S. military command in Iraq has said: that more U.S. forces will only inflame Iraqi resistance. Recently, when the United States moved forces from other parts of Iraq into Baghdad, in an attempt to increase Baghdad's security, violence flared in reaction to the augmented U.S. troop presence.

  4. Don't use any extra U.S. troops to train Iraqi forces. Even if the Iraqi army and police could be made larger and better quickly-which they can't be-the biggest difficulty is not their competence. The main problem is that they will fight for their religious sect, ethnic group, or tribe, not for their country.

  5. Don't think that training Iraqi security forces is a viable U.S. exit strategy. Because of the fragmented nature of Iraqi society, training such forces is merely enabling one side's combatants in an accelerating civil war. Many of those already trained are now operating as Shi'ite death squads attacking Sunnis.

  6. Don't think that the ISG's proposed withdrawal of combat forces by early 2008, while retaining about half the 140,000 troops to train Iraqi forces, is a viable solution. In addition to making the long-term situation in Iraq worse (see item #5), this proposal was merely a "cut and hide" strategy by the bipartisan foreign policy elite to diminish the importance of Iraq in the 2008 elections. If combat troops are withdrawn, the less visible training mission would incur fewer U.S. casualties and generate less intense media coverage back home during the next election season.

  7. Don't pursue the "80 percent solution." This proposal would abandon any attempt at reconciliation with the Sunnis and throw all of the diminishing U.S. influence behind the groups that effectively control the Iraqi government: the Shi'a, which make up 60 percent of Iraq's population, and the Kurds, which make up another 20 percent. After the invasion, U.S. support defaulted to the Shi'a and Kurds because they were opposed to the rising Sunni insurgency. But the Shi'a have become more militant, have turned southern Iraq into an intolerant Islamic state, and have come under the influence of their sectarian brethren in Iran. Many of the Sunni guerrillas are thugs, but at least most are not religious militants. Besides, for long-term stability, all groups-including the Sunnis-have to be satisfied enough with any political settlement to attempt to quell violence from their members.

  8. Don't think that talking to Syria and Iran will pay big dividends in Iraq. Right after the invasion, these countries were afraid that they would be next and thus were more amenable to helping out the United States. Now, they are both delighted that they have the United States over a barrel-that is, bogged down in a quagmire and less likely to put them in the cross hairs. So they will be in no hurry to help U.S. forces extricate themselves from the tar baby. Although assistance to various groups in Iraq is coming from Syria and Iran, Iraqi violence appears to be funded mainly through kidnappings and organized crime. Thus, although talks should be initiated with Syria and Iran, even if they agree to help, that help will not dampen most of Iraq's violence.

  9. Don't continue talking about democracy or victory in Iraq. Neither is possible, and such rhetoric makes withdrawal harder before either is achieved.

  10. Don't think Iraq can exist as a unified country. Iraq already has decentralized governance and militias dominating various areas. The United States should mediate a conclave of all Iraqi groups to recognize this decentralized governance and to negotiate a viable oil sharing agreement. The decentralization option is the only one that has any hope of reducing and compartmentalizing the violence. At this late date, however, even this option might not prevent unbridled mayhem.

 

Ivan Eland is the Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

New from Ivan Eland!
THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed

Most Americans don't think of their government as an empire, but in fact the United States has been steadily expanding its control of overseas territories since the turn of the twentieth century. In The Empire Has No Clothes, Ivan Eland, a leading expert on U.S. defense policy and national security, examines American military interventions around the world from the Spanish-American War to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Buy It Today >>


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  7 Comments   Comment

  1. Robert Goodman from WA

    Like it or not we are cooking a big war this time. There is no end game for Iraq is we have divide the way it should be and we will get Iran and Syria into the war so we can help our economic by selling more weapon to our Mild East so call ally, they in hand think that we are helping them. We will make both Shiite and Sunni fight each other, mission accomplish. The world will look at you guys as inhuman because you love war. Just like what we did in Palestine now is a God send. Get my message!! First know your enemy. A friend can be you're biggest enemy.

    To really stop this madness my advice is easy trade in gold. When we keep printing money like US dollars that cost 4cent to every 100$bill , we are causing more deaths and destructions. Help to stop the madness.

  2. sid george from usa

    I could not find anything wrong with it. It seems very reasonable. Iam an educated voter and I am going to copy the article and send it to my friends.

    Sid

  3. Meriam Mohammed from Indonesia

    Jimson, We Muslims just love all this Christian compassion, love, justice, honor, mercy and kindness. Could we please now beg you "wonderfully humane Christians" to stop all your outpouring kindness because your love has left us with piles of corpses of massacred men, women and children, your kind Christian soldiers show their love by murdering and raping our women and children and then lieing about it (I don't think the new-borns and 2 year, or the disabled 89 year old man whose bodies you later conveniently burnt, qualify as terrorists). Can we please suggest that you keep your love and affection on your side of the border. I know you all are waiting for rapture to happen so you all can fly off to yonder heaven with a smiling Jesus, but do keep your kindness to yourself as I am sure you will have a lot of explaining to do to Jesus when you guys are gliding over the fields of tortured and slaughtered bodies of the innocent, on your way to "Heaven". Jimson you talk about "Good US Soldiers" wow ! Ever hear of pigs fly? Its not just us you ding dongs have to answer for, but for all the Koreans, the Japanese, the Vietnamese, the Red Indians and the Africans you have been happily slaughtering throughout your history. Also if being a republican causes you to have the same sentiments and be in the same league as BUSH - God do I feel sorry for you. Enough with the LOVE.

  4. Jimson from USA

    This is quite a predicment of a current situation in Iraq, but dose not necessarly depicts diverse views of Iraqies which I bleive should have been the main focal point.

    one thing that is big no- no- is do not send dummies to secure civilians i.e. the Haditha case that four dummies killed 24 civilians and thier ridiculous denfensive argument in court is that they were brain washed. well, f.. you Bi..

    send some good guys so people's hate towards USA change to love. And Simon mackuen's donts and dos are great path to walk on except I am a republican.

    I write to my muslim sisters and brothers who suffered form this war and I hope God give them every thing to make them happy in this world and the world to come. To my cristian brothers and sisters, please do not forget we are on the mission to save lives not kill and torture, human is important to us first then any thing else comes after that.

  5. Simon McKuen from USA

    Just a few more "Don'ts" and some "Do's" Ivan forgot to add:

    1. Don't elect a Chimp for President

    2. Don't allow foreign lobbies, such as Israel's to sucker Americans to fight and die for them.

    3. Don't allow foreign lobbies to drain the resources of the country dry which we can ill afford, and when we owe Israel absolutely nothing.

    4. Don't let your clergy, least your loopy one's the fire & brimstone Evangelists to influence domestic administration and foreign policy. These guys are, as even Bush himself is on record for saying, the 'crazies' 'loonies' and 'kooks'.

    5. Don't let Israel dominated media lie to you or control your opinions.

    The DOs:

    1. Do make an effort to read international news on the Internet that is unbiased and presents facts that the US media would not dream of letting you see. Using the internet for porn really does not do justice to this amazing technology that would certainly enrich anyone who seeks knowledge, and knowledge is key.

    2. We Americans DO need to seriously STOP the media and Israel and other countries with similar aspirations to take advantage of our ignorance and goofiness.

    3. Time to take back the Country. Time to say, I AM AS MAD AS HELL AND I WON"T TAKE THIS ROT ANYMORE. LETS DO IT.

  6. Romesh Chander from USA

    Ivan Eland (the author) is too logical. Unfortunately, the Bush White House lacks any coherent logical sense. So, the end result is -- war will go on till Bush leaves office, unless the US is defeated on the battlefield in the next few months (not a possibility). Moreover, Syria and Iran are in no hurry for US to leave soon -- they are enjoying the troubles US is in now, and want to see that US gets more in trouble so that eventually US withdraws not only from Iraq but also from the entire Middle East; and that is going to take 4-8 more years. So, get ready for quite a long war and suffering.

  7. Tasneem Ali from USA

    I did not like your article as is suggest hopelessness.. I am not very intelligent but I always think there are solutions and in middle east everthing is tangled with everything and I have started to beleive that since we did not solve Palestine/Israel problem, people have lost faith in US government and I have predicted before, 500,000 more muslims have to shed blood before we will see anything that will make sense.