I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Charles Krauthammer's brush with reality

George Will flipped, Tom Friedman flipped - will Charles Krauthammer be next? He comes as close as he has ever come to the cold harsh reality of Iraq in his column today. The title is misleading, Iraq: A Civil War We Can Still Win, since he says the US can't win it only the Maliki government can. He says there a two rationales for withdrawing and gets that right.
Iraq: (a) Iraq is not worth it, and (b) worth it or not, the cause is lost.
He is still off base when he claims that Iraq is worth it. He does seem to admit at least the possibility that it may be a lost cause.
The other rationale for withdrawal is that the war is lost and therefore it is unconscionable to make one more American soldier die for a cause that cannot be salvaged.

It is a serious argument from which we have been distracted during the past several months by the increasingly absurd debate over the meaning of the term "civil war," and whether Iraq is in one.

Of course it is. It began when the Sunni minority, unwilling to accept the finality of the Baathist defeat, began making indiscriminate war on the Kurdish-Shiite majority that had inherited the country as a result of the U.S. invasion.

Iraq is not Spain in the 1930s or America in the 1860s, but whether the phrase "civil war" is to be used is irrelevant. The relevant question is, can we still win, meaning can we leave behind a functioning, self-sustaining, Western-friendly constitutional government?

And that depends on whether the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can face up to its two potentially mortal threats: the Sunni insurgency and the challenge from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The vast majority of Sunnis are fighting not for ideology but for a share of power and (oil) money. A deal with them is eminently possible and could co-opt enough Sunnis to greatly shrink the insurgency. Even now, the insurgents have the capacity to massacre civilians and kill coalition soldiers with roadside bombs, but they have never demonstrated the capacity for the kind of sustained unit action that ultimately overthrows governments and wins civil wars. (See Castro, Mao, North Vietnam.) Our ambassador in Baghdad has been urging the Maliki government to make the bargain. He has also been urging it to get serious about the growing internal threat of Sadr's Mahdi Army, which is responsible for much of the recent sectarian violence and threatens to either marginalize or supplant the central government.

The only positive element in Sadr's rise has been a fracturing of the united Shiite front that can now allow some cross-sectarian (Sunni-Shiite) deals and alliances. But that requires a Maliki government decisively willing to deal with the Sunnis and take on Sadr.

Yesterday Maliki took over operational control of the Iraqi armed forces, the one national security institution that works. He needs to demonstrate the will to use it. The American people will support a cause that is noble and necessary, but not one that is unwinnable. And without a central Iraqi government willing to act in its own self-defense, this war will be unwinnable.
He admits that it is indeed a civil war, something the Bush administration is unwilling to do, but more importantly admits that if Iraq's central government won't take on the militias Iraq is indeed a lost cause. That makes it a lost cause as I see but it is significant that an ├╝ber neocon like Krauthammer would be that close to the real world.

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