BAGHDAD -- For much of this year, the U.S. military strategy in Iraq has sought to reduce violence so that politicians could bring about national reconciliation, but several top Iraqi leaders say they have lost faith in that broad goal.So what does this mean? It's easy and what the Bush/Cheney administration wanted all along, a permanent occupation.
Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.
"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."
Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.
Andrew Sullivan does a good job of explaining the horrible consequences of this.
My concern is that a permanent occupation of the place has even more unintended consequences - the constant danger of enraging the Muslim word that even a perfectly-run occupation would risk; the moral corruption from policing what is in many pockets a barbaric place packed with barbaric actors; the enormous costs required to keep the ungrateful volcano from constant eruption; and the near-impossibility of any sectarian reconciliation to the point of a viable nation-state for the foreseeable future.Now I'm not sure that he's right about Hillary although I do think that is probably what she would like to do. I don't think it really matters who the next president is neither the Iraqis or the American people tolerate it.
Even if we manage to contain violence and genocide to less grotesque levels than last winter, our measurement of what is acceptable keeps being defined downwards. To do all of this primarily to ensure stability in an energy resource that we need to wean ourselves from makes the entire project close to farcical. Maybe it was doomed from the start, as Makiya now suspects. But it is good to see exactly where we are: on the eve of decades of neo-colonial management. It's a classic case of late imperial decline.
Morally, the cost-benefit ratio has shifted as well. Would Saddam have murdered as many innocents as have perished under American occupation? It is becoming a more even match, isn't it? And would the United States have lost its moral leadership without the torture tactics adopted across the war theater in Iraq? The answer is yes: torture was authorized before the Iraq invasion. But using it in Iraq, against Muslims and in Saddam's own prisons, deepened the stain. With every day we stay on, the day we leave recedes from view. We will, I think, never leave. A Clinton presidency would be the means that half the country is reconciled to that fact. Which is why the neocons will come to terms with it. And she with them.