Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 17, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

STAYING THE COURSE....Sunday's Washington Post has a very sobering assessment of the situation in Iraq:

"The Fallujah problem and the Sadr problem are having a wider impact than we expected," a senior U.S. official involved in Iraq policy said. In Baghdad and Washington, officials had initially concluded that addressing those problems would not engender much anger among ordinary Iraqis. "Sadr's people and the people of Fallujah were seen as isolated and lacking broad support among Iraqis," the official added.

Instead, the official said, "The effect has been profound."

....The crises have helped boost the standing of more radical Shiite and Sunni political leaders. Abdul Karim Muhammadawi, a Shiite tribal chief who led guerrilla attacks on Hussein's army in the 1980s and '90s in the southern marshes, gained stature in many Shiite neighborhoods after he suspended his membership in the council because of a disagreement with U.S. policy. Although U.S. officials selected Muhammadawi to sit on the council last summer, they have soured on him in recent months because of his support for an armed militia in southeastern Iraq.

Mohsen Abdul Hamid, the leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, has emerged as the council's most influential Sunni member because of his attempts to broker a peace deal in Fallujah. But Abdul Hamid had also been written off months ago by U.S. officials -- for alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Sunni movement that is banned in several Arab nations.

"The politicians the Americans wanted to become popular have lost out to the guys the Americans didn't want to become popular," said an Iraqi adviser to the occupation authority. "It was exactly the outcome they did not want."

It's nice to see that at least one "senior U.S. official" understands the gravity of what's going on, but it would be even nicer to hear some plan for doing more than simply "staying the course." Right now, staying the course is the worst strategy imaginable.

NOTE: I realize that that last sentence is ambiguous. All I meant by it is that we have three basic options:

  1. Declare victory and pull out. This would likely lead to civil war and an unpredicable but bad outcome, but at least no more Americans would die.

  2. Stay the course. This will probably also lead to some version of civil war and a bad outcome, and many more Americans will die in the process.

  3. Increase both the resources and the time frame devoted to Iraq. Americans will continue to die, but at least there's the possibility of a (moderately) good outcome.

Doves prefer option #1 and hawks prefer option #3, but surely everyone agrees that option #2 is the worst of the lot?

Kevin Drum 11:57 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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