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Tilting at Windmills

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August 16, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

POLITICAL MELTDOWN IN IRAQ....After the Sunni parties withdrew from the Iraqi government earlier this month, President Jalal Talabani called an emergency political summit that was widely viewed as the last chance to maintain even a semblance of political comity between Shiites and Sunnis. Marc Lynch reports that it didn't work:

Al-Arabiya is reporting that the emergency political summit of Iraq's leaders has failed to produce even nominal political reconciliation. This is a devastating outcome for the Maliki government and for those Americans who hoped to have some political progress to show in the upcoming Crocker/Petraeus report. There's no other way to spin this: this summit was billed as the last chance, and it has failed.

....I thought there was at least a chance that they would cobble something together out of desperation and find ways to lure the Sunni parties back in....They did not. Instead, Talabani announced the formation of a new four party coalition in support of the current government without any Sunni representation. What's left is a government stripped to its sectarian base — the two Kurdish parties and the two major Shia parties — and a world of political hurt.

Italics mine. On a related subject, more here on the Shia takeover of the Iraqi army. It's not exactly news or anything, just further confirmation of the obvious: the eventual fate of Iraq (outside the Kurdish north) is the establishment of a Shia theocracy closely aligned with Iran. As far as I can tell, no one has even a colorable argument that things are moving in any other direction, and equally, no colorable argument that there's anything we can do to stop it. Maliki is using the U.S. military brass as useful idiots to fight his battles for him, and George Bush is his Useful Idiot in Chief.

And don't forget: every single major Republican candidate for president wants to continue our useful idiot role. They're practically duelling each other to see who can be the most fatuously naive about foreign policy. Quite a spectacle, no?

Kevin Drum 2:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (56)

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Comments

I would just like to blame everyone we ignored who warned us that this wouldn't work.

Posted by: absent observer on August 16, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we told them so. Cassandra's lot is an unhappy one.

Posted by: anandine on August 16, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

One of the funniest newsclips of last year was McCain talking to a 'Sunni Sheikh' straight from central casting with just the right kind of beard and turban and lily white robe. This was supposed to be an example of the great strides in political progress as a result of the Great Surge Upward.

That has worked out so well.

Posted by: gregor on August 16, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Colorable?" Is this a new fashionable usage that I've missed?

Posted by: gkoutnik on August 16, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

A general defeat for Republican conservatives and their Sunni allies.

But not a defeat for America, unless you equate America with Dick Cheney's Sunni plot. Iran is still Persian, and I would prefer Persians on our side in the endless struggle against Sunni invasions.

Posted by: Matt on August 16, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

GWB is NOT a useful idiot. Even if the rhetoric is colorable that way.

Posted by: slanted tom on August 16, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

gkoutnik: Nope, same old usage as always:

col·or·a·ble /ˈkʌlərəbəl/
–adjective
seemingly valid, true, or genuine; plausible.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on August 16, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

The other possibility is a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Posted by: Art Rantarian on August 16, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing that rebranding the Iranian Revolutionary Guard won't fix!

Posted by: Kenji on August 16, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

As usual, Americans are looking at the Iraq situation in terms of quarterly reports.

The Sunnis and Shia are battling over control of Iraq for the next 3 generations, and willing to pay a high price accordingly.

Posted by: jb on August 16, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

anything we can do to stop it

The US should not interfere with the politics of other nations. It is not the US's reason for being to ensure other nations are governed the way our petro-military-capital industrial complex wants them governed. Almost all US citizens would resent having our governance dictated by a foreign power, even if it meant the end of neo-conservative rule. The Shia are the majority demographic in Iraq. If they want to create a theocracy closely aligned with Iran, that is their prerogative and Americans should accept their decision without lamenting we could do something to prevent it.

Posted by: Brojo on August 16, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin's point is good. Does not seem that Maliki government sees any problem with Sunni departure.

Posted by: Art Rantarian on August 16, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Quite the spectacle, indeed.

Posted by: elmo on August 16, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Atrios is right. A major test of the media is whether they will continue to refer to the "Petraus report" as such or whether they will identify it as a White House production.

However, I for one, am willing to bet every dollar the stock market is now loosing that the media will fail this test.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on August 16, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

There is this internet video making the rounds today of Dick Cheney in 1994, making comments about Iraq that fairly accurately describe why it would be a mistake to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein.

Posted by: Qwerty on August 16, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

"It's not exactly news or anything, just further confirmation of the obvious: the eventual fate of Iraq (outside the Kurdish north) is the establishment of a Shia theocracy closely aligned with Iran."

I think that may not be untrue for the south but I believe Iraq is headed for partition along sectarian lines.

Posted by: Linus on August 16, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

To be pedantic, mate, there remain Sunni in the government. They just happen to be Kurdish separatists.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on August 16, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Good Ford. It's like the 750's all over again!

On a bemused note...I wonder why the Islamic world doesn't educate the rest of us by undertaking reenactments, like our Civil War chuckleheads? The Battle of Zab and the murder of Jaffar would be a good place to start.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 16, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

However, I for one, am willing to bet every dollar the stock market is now loosing that the media will fail this test.
Posted by: Duncan Kinder on August 16, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I love how THIS article claims that the current problems started when housing prices started to drop. . .

When, in fact, the housing prices were dropping because it was harder to get easy credit to buy houses, because rates were going up, because George Bush was borrowing so much money for the "war effort" - it began to drive up inflation, (as well as the impact from rising oil prices, driven up by the speculators' frenzy at a war in the middle east) - so really, the market is going down because Bush had a hard-on for IRAQ. Now - there's an argument that this all happened because of 9/11, thus one could say that this is all part of Osama bin Laden's evil plan, but Bush didn't have to invade Iraq, either.

Why won't they admit the obvious TRUTH?

Bush has turned Iraq into a hellhole, and now the American economy is in a death spiral as a result.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 16, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Marc Lynch: "Al-Arabiya is reporting that the emergency political summit of Iraq's leaders has failed to produce even nominal political reconciliation. This is a devastating outcome for the Maliki government and for those Americans who hoped to have some political progress to show in the upcoming Crocker/Petraeus report.

Oh, please.

With the help of the MSM, the War in Iraq is in the process of being re-branded as the War against Al Quaeda, and the Crocker/Petraeus report will show military progress and have nothing whatsoever to do with lack of political progress.

The fix is in.

Posted by: Econobuzz on August 16, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Please. Petraeus cut the legs from under Maliki weeks ago over the Sunni insurgent issue. There is no reason for anyone to compromise right now.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on August 16, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

What's left is a government stripped to its sectarian base

Has Rove landed a new consulting job already?

Posted by: uri on August 16, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly there are huge political problems in Iraq but Kevin (or for that matter Marc) should have read the Al-Arabiya more closely. If you want to, you can read it here:

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2007/08/16/37942.html

What is clear in the Al-Arabia story is that the creation of this new coalition is very much an effort to fix many of the problems that had prevented the previous coalition from advancing national reconciliation:

"Othman [a Kurdish lawmaker and memebr of the new coalition] said the former national unity coalition had suffered from the bitter differences between its leaders, which prevented them from coming to agreement on any of the issues dogging Iraq after four long years of war." He went on to point out that the hope and intention is to get the Sunnis to join.

In other words, far from being a hardening along sectarian lines, this coalition stemmed from an effort to reduce infighting among Kurdish and Shiite leaders and strengthen that hands of those who want to advance national reconciliation. The Sunnis, who have boycotted the government already, boycotted this session as well. But the coalition's hope is that by solidifying the Kurdish-Shiite base, reconciliation with the Sunnis will be more, not less, possible.

Don't get me wrong, there are huge problems in Iraq and this is not some magic step forward. But it is also not, as Kevin claimed, some dramatic failure of the last chance Iraq ever had to bring the Sunnis into the fold.

Posted by: Hacksaw on August 16, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

The surge has definitively failed. If we remember back one F.U., the original purpose of this last-ditch "surge" was to put a lid on the security situation long enough to allow the political process to get up on its feet and hand things off to the Iraqi police and military by the end of the year. Well, now we have a pretty conclusive picture of how that is going. Econobuzz is right. Petraeus's report will amount to a lot of bells and whistles about how great things are going in Anbar province and mention none of the other benchmarks that originally justified the surge. He will then ask for Congress to continue funding current troop levels so that the political process "has a chance to get off the ground in the next six months or so." And, as many here have said before, the MSM -- following interviews with impartial, informed observers like the Kagans and William Kristol -- will report it as a "mixed bag."

Posted by: jonas on August 16, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

And, as many here have said before, the MSM ... will report it as a "mixed bag."

They've already tested this. About a month ago (July 12), there was this CNN report:

A report on U.S.-set benchmarks for Iraq shows "satisfactory progress" in eight areas, while highlighting that there's "more work to do" in other areas, President Bush said Thursday.
"Of the 18 benchmarks Congress asked us to measure, we can report that satisfactory progress is being made in eight areas," Bush said during a White House news conference.

...which prompted Jon Stwart to observe that "There ya have it, eight out of 18, otherwise known as a gentleman's F. As you know, we are now entering our fifth year of making very good progress in Iraq. Obviously, the president is defining progress now as 'moving forward through time.'"

Posted by: Qwerty on August 16, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Starting to make Vietnam look easy. At least there you could exit the damn place.

Posted by: Bob M on August 16, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

"And don't forget: every single major Republican candidate for president wants to continue our useful idiot role. They're practically duelling each other to see who can be the most fatuously naive about foreign policy. Quite a spectacle, no?"

All except one, and we know who that is.

Too bad he doesn't get any credit from some around here for being smart. And Ron Paul opposed the war from the very beginning.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on August 16, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

In fact, Bob M, we almost did exit there several times, under both Johnson and Nixon. But, as usual, presidential pride was more important than lives or moral issues.

Posted by: Kenji on August 16, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Has Rove landed a new consulting job already?
Posted by: uri on August 16, 2007 at 4:48 PM

I almosted commenced to going cold over this statement, but then I remembered that would require Mr. Rove's actually going to Iraq, not just intently studying a photo of it to see if Iraq's new US Embassy, the (non-permanent) Darth Fortress of the Apocolypse, can be seen from space.

Posted by: Zit on August 16, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Starting to make Vietnam look easy. At least there you could exit the damn place.
Posted by: Bob M on August 16, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

right. With VietNam, at least we didn't have to worry about the US economy being wiped out by high oil prices.

Has Rove landed a new consulting job already?
Posted by: uri on August 16, 2007 at 4:48 PM

I assume he's going to make sure Clinton gets the nomination, then he'll unleash all the wiretapped dirt. That's why he left the White House. He's got more mud to sling. And by mud, I mean poo.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 16, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe after the Petraeus brief, Bush will suddenly feel the need to spend more time with family.

One can hope. After all, it would be just another amusing Bush-ism if he abandoned his own ship.

Posted by: Zit on August 16, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

And the saddest part is that any 2nd-year polical science student with only a basic knowledge of the Middle East could have told you that if you remove a Sunni dictator in a Shia majority country you would end up with a Shia dictatorship.

But of course, Bush isn't as smart as a second year poly sci student.....

Posted by: mfw13 on August 16, 2007 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.): On a bemused note...I wonder why the Islamic world doesn't educate the rest of us by undertaking reenactments, like our Civil War chuckleheads? The Battle of Zab and the murder of Jaffar would be a good place to start.

I'd start with Abdul Assiz Ibn Saud announcing his ascension to the throne by tossing the head of his predecessor off a parapet into a crowd of his former subjects.

Another nice one would be when the Sheik of Dubai invited his long-estranged brother, the Sheik of Deira, across the river from Dubai, to wed his son or daughter (I forget which) to his own son or daughter. When the entourage from Deira got there, the Sheik of Dubai killed all 1500 and took over Deira, which is now part of Dubai.

Posted by: anandine on August 16, 2007 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

you're ignoring bush's plan: to throw in with the sunnis no matter their terrorist connections and re-impose sunni apartheid.

Posted by: benjoya on August 16, 2007 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Those are certainly good choices. I select the 750's and those two events because they were turning points that caused the rift between the Shia and Sunni to become an unbridgeable chasm.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 16, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

. . . When the entourage from Deira got there, the Sheik of Dubai killed all 1500 and took over Deira, which is now part of Dubai.
Posted by: anandine on August 16, 2007 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Never mind the account in the Bible where the Israelites attacked a neighboring tribe, convinced them to convert to Judaism, and while the men were all recovering from the circumcisions, the Israelites attacked, and put the entire village to the sword.

Yeah - Western culture has the monopoly on peaceful, civilized virtues all right.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 16, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but for Kevin to ponder and maybe ask his readers about:

You and many other bloggers commenting on the statements and arguments of public officials and pundits like the word "colorable", but it has always made me uneasy.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines it thus:
ADJECTIVE: 1. Meant to deceive; not genuine. 2. Seemingly true or genuine; plausible.

So it seems to mean "on the boundary between believable and not believable, but suspect".

So how exactly do you use it? To suggest that the argument being offered isn't great, doesn't really persuade, but is at least good enough to merit consideration? Or that it's in fact meant to deceive?

Posted by: DNS on August 16, 2007 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

Just like to pint out that if you click through Sullivan's link, you get to Michael Totten, rabid neo-con and long-time proponent of war with Iran.

Thus, while his reporting is probably accurate, when he says things like "the Mahdi Army is Iran's proxy in Iraq. It is in effect the Iraqi branch of Hezbollah" he is blowing smoke. SIIC, or whatever they're called this week, and its militia the Badr Brigades, is Iran's proxy.

While Iran is almost certainly funding and supplying the JAM, Sadr is still the least friendly to Iran of the major Shiite leaders.

Love how he points out that the Lebanese Shiites were friendly toward the Israelis until "Iran turned them around" while apparently overlooking the minor detail that Israel occupied their home territory of southern Lebanon for eighteen freakin' years.

Posted by: MikeN on August 16, 2007 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

One could make a colorable argument that "colorable" is the new "tipping point." (If an adjective can be said, even deceptively, to replace a noun.)

I would like to see anandine's "Iraq War Cassandras" supplant "the unserious," and "dirty fucking hippies."

Posted by: Model 62 on August 16, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, dear Totten, the deluded git.

you get to Michael Totten, rabid neo-con and long-time proponent of war with Iran.

Is he a Neo-Con in a proper sense of the word?

He's a deluded git, that is true. Well his US domestic politics have always been obscure to me.

Thus, while his reporting is probably accurate, when he says things like "the Mahdi Army is Iran's proxy in Iraq. It is in effect the Iraqi branch of Hezbollah" he is blowing smoke. SIIC, or whatever they're called this week, and its militia the Badr Brigades, is Iran's proxy.

Quite. Accurate, well, I would say Totten is "accurate" in the sense he truly believes what he writes. He, however, is a monoliingual delusional who wanders around getting spun (or writing patently ridiculous and stupid things, his Libyan odyssey very much amused me). Making Sullivan's comment about Totten seeing through spin very amusing.

As well:
Love how he points out that the Lebanese Shiites were friendly toward the Israelis until "Iran turned them around" while apparently overlooking the minor detail that Israel occupied their home territory of southern Lebanon for eighteen freakin' years.

Indeed. I could not stomach reading all that to find such a delicious piece of delusion.

Iran turned them eh. That is a unique view. I understand some Likoudniks and Phalangiste Marounis believe that. Well, easy enough to see where the fine English speaking Totten gets his views. Phalangistes and Likoudniks.

The term useful idiot was coined for people like him.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on August 16, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

The idiot Totten is never to be taken seriously. The man is delusional, seeing an Evil Perzian Vizier every time an Iranian clears his throat.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 16, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Well i see that The Lounsbury slapped him down better than I did. (Note to self: Always hit refresh before hitting 'post')

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 16, 2007 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'd never understood "colorable" to mean consciously dishonest, but see the word instead attached to weak claims or barely plausible arguments. A colorable argument is one you can make with a straight face without being an outright liar. But not by much.

Posted by: cxpat on August 16, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

does he have 137 votes

Posted by: ed_finnerty on August 16, 2007 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Love is the answer, and you know that for sure.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on August 16, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

They're practically duelling each other to see who can be the most fatuously naive about foreign policy.

You're the one who is naive. They are dueling to see who can best make Americans swallow the deliberate policy of civil war for Iraqis we've had in place for at least 3 years.

Posted by: Boronx on August 16, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

re: colorable...yup. "Coloring" is an activity, like "putting English" on a ball, or lipstick on a pig. It's spinning. Even the best bullshitters need to have some kernel of plausibility to work with. Colorability is the minimum requirement for a BSer. If your argument ain't at least "colorable", it won't fly even among the most fervid Kool-Aid drinkers.

But I'd caution Kevin against using it as a seal of approval for any good, straightforward argument that contains no element of disingenuity. The laws and theorems of physics may well be "colorable", but they don't need that kind of damning faint praise.

Posted by: Lionel Hutz, Attorney-at-Law on August 16, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Mission Accomplished! Bush has successfully exported his theory of democracy to the middle east. The largest religious group attempts to force the rest of the country to follow its lead. If the opposing parties refuse to follow, then the political process is stalled.

Posted by: Tuna on August 17, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

What, exactly, was our mission again, and when will we know when/if it is accomplished?

Posted by: Nemo on August 17, 2007 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

nemo--we are not allowed to know what the mission is, was, or will be. All we are allowed to know is that when it is acknowledged that we can't achieve it, it will be the fault of the person making the acknowledgment.

Posted by: calling all toasters on August 17, 2007 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

The notion that Kevin knows what is going to happen in Iraq is silly. He, or the rest of us, cannot even confidently predict what will happen politically in the U.S. over the next year.

Posted by: brian on August 17, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

No, but there is no safer bet on earth than predicting that Iraq will get worse before it gets better.

Posted by: Kenji on August 17, 2007 at 4:27 AM | PERMALINK

I haven't seen anything in the newspapers or on TV about the failure of the "political summit." I guess they're just going to ignore it, as they so often do with things that cast an unfavorable light upon the Bushistas. But the conviction of Jose Padilla on lesser charges (no mention of a dirty bomb) after being held incommunicado in sensory deprivation conditions for three years is a MAJOR VICTORY for the Bush administraiton. NYT said so.

Posted by: Helena Montana on August 17, 2007 at 5:06 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding Totten, rather more documented than my dismissal of him - quite frankly have better things to do - are the following:
http://alterdestiny.blogspot.com/2007/08/guilt-by-assertion.htmlGuilt By Assertion that does a fine enough job of discussing Totten's delusional assertions re both our tubby little Muqtada as Iranian puppet, and the issue of Hezbullah.

And American Footprints little note on the same issue.

I should note Marouni supra in my comment refers to Maronite Catholics, and Phalange to a rather nasty little quasi-fascist (in its technical sense) movement among the Marouni at one time popular.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on August 17, 2007 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm, really bollixed up that I did. Well the American footprints notey is this url:
http://americanfootprints.com/drupal/node/3625

Posted by: The Lounsbury on August 17, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

It will not work, it'll definitely end up with failure. Until US troops leave from Iraq, and Iraqis chose their government by their own, there will not be a stability in politics...
Questions For Comparing Policies

Posted by: Peter on August 17, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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