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Broken Back

Without that safe haven, those insurgents sure are licked. Yep, we broke the back of that little problem. The issue here, of course, is that the insurgents have a "safe haven" anywhere in Iraq that's inhabited by Sunni Arabs that doesn't happen to have a US (or Kurdish) soldier standing right there on top of him. The guerilla fish swims in the peasant sea, etc. Adesnik makes good points about democracy as counterinsurgency -- give the erstwhile population base of the insurgency an alternate means of acquiring political power, and they ought to turn away from violent methods that bring suffering into their homes. The trouble in Iraq is that democracy won't provide Sunni Arabs with political power -- it threatens to leave them marginalized in the national government and cut out of what they see as their fair share of the oil money. You need democracy plus some kind of credible guarantees to minority groups.

November 20, 2004 | Permalink


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» liberating Fallujah from City of Brass
There's more than just utilitarian military objectives driving the offensive in Fallujah - it was also about denying those who would subjugate their own. [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 20, 2004 12:15:57 PM


The solution is obvious - bring Saddam back: Iraq: The Brecher Victory Plan!

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 20, 2004 10:42:02 AM

It seems to me very possible that the Sunnis may feel entitled to be politically dominant, as they have been for the past several centuries. Southern whites weren't satisfied with being non-marginalized after the Civil War. They were willing to use terrorism to regain their total political dominance.

If a large fraction of Sunnis do indeed such an over-entitlement, it may be necessary to put them under Shiite/Kurdish occupation until their aspirations are appropriately restricted.

That said, surely federalism plus some sharing of oil revenues on a national level (hopefully on an individual basis, rather than corruption-inducing transfers to provincial governments) would help split moderate Sunnis from extremist Sunnis.

Posted by: dubious | Nov 20, 2004 12:02:22 PM

You mean like our Constitution (bi-cameral legislative bodies, electoral college, etc....)? How about a Bill of Rights? Hmm, wonder where we might find an good example?

Posted by: Mark O | Nov 20, 2004 12:23:39 PM

The notion that democracy alone ends terrorism - or, for that matter, ends what i'll call political insurgencies with a violent bent - is disproven by actual, authentic world history (something with which adesnik, in his parallel utopian universe, may perhaps be insufficiently familiar).

Let's assume, for the moment, that we actually did kill some 1200 - 1600 insurgents, and that we only killed insurgents, and that there was not a single civilian death. Even so, by the intel that we've been using, that means there are still some 18K insurgents left, even assuming that no one returns to fallujah, is horrified by the destruction and the rot of dead bodies, and thereby moves from being dissatisfied but sick of violence to being dissatisfied and an active insugent or supporter of insurgents.

At this point, i have no clue what "breaks the back" of the insurgency, but i do have a clue that fallujah wasn't it....

Posted by: howard | Nov 20, 2004 1:46:18 PM

That mosque raid yesterday may end up being the Sunni equivalent of the raid on Sadr's paper.

Anonymous bombings are business as usual these days, but what struck me today were the photos of the locals coming out in crowds to protest, in and around US troops and their armored vehicles. Sure, its not unheard of, perhaps staged even, but this thing could so easily slide from a "dead-ender" whack a mole to a mass popular movement.

Posted by: Harold Babar | Nov 20, 2004 2:49:14 PM

Sometimes I really, really have to wonder about Adesnik:

Well, ask yourselves this: In how many of those seven cases [the cases include Vietnam and Chechnya] did the great powers involved seek to promote democracy as a means of defeating the insurgents. Answer: zero.

Isn't this just flat-out wrong?

1. The US in most phases of the Vietnam conflict claimed to be supporting democratically-elected leaders: Diem and Thieu were both elected in processes similarly "imperfect" to what the Americans are hoping to pull off in Iraq in January, or to the model "vote Karzai or we'll burn your house down" election recently held in Afghanistan. The problem wasn't a lack of elections or of rhetoric about "democracy promotion," it was a lack of the kind of intelligence about Vietnamese society which might have warned the Americans that corrupt elections wouldn't be magic bullets of legitimacy.

2. Were the Russians in Chechnya not fighting to keep that province as part of a nominally democratic state? If ethnic considerations, dislike of the Russian military and concerns about corruption outweighed the appeal of Russian democracy, shouldn't that tell us something about the simplistic nature of the whole "democracy promotion" meme?

I mean, don't get me wrong, it's nice to see it finally occur to someone that maybe the US should start learning from its only recent counterinsurgency success. It's just disappointing to see Adesnik switch gears from a sophisticated analysis of the American victory with Magsaysay to simplistic duckspeaking about "democracy promotion," as though Bush's Iraq has a thing in common with the Phillippines of the fifties.

Posted by: Doctor Slack | Nov 20, 2004 3:26:41 PM

Also, the sort of democracy the Bushies are now 'promoting' in Iraq isn't really any different than what the Soviet Union was 'promoting' in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Same shit, different bullshit.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 20, 2004 3:51:43 PM

Well, democracy alone won't do the trick, that's for sure. What's needed is a policy similar to the ones England and Spain used to handle their separatist terrorism problem. A tough, effective counter insurgency policy and addressing as much as possible of the (real or imaginary) grievances of the population without giving up your ultimate objective. It's a very difficult trick and it may take decades to work.

Posted by: Carlos | Nov 20, 2004 9:33:02 PM

Ah, good to see your paying attention.

Civil War, of course. Thats my main beef with the Bush Administration. They should know better than to expect these 3 different type people to quickly accept democracy without force. Terrible choice, showing their lack of ability understanding history. Maybe they will allow the individual provinces of Iraq to seperate if they wish to. The Kurds would get alot of oil money, sure...i guess we could work something out...maybe we could fund the sunnis and the shiites to exist. I know it sounds bad but it could get bad 5 years down the road over there....

Posted by: Josh Kinniard | Nov 21, 2004 3:35:19 AM

"Three type people:" the kurds in the north, sunnis or shiites in the middle (cant remember which), and the other in the south.

Posted by: Josh Kinniard | Nov 21, 2004 3:37:43 AM

You need democracy plus some kind of credible guarantees to minority groups.

I thought that part of the definition of democracy was to guard against the tyranny of the majority. Oh, yeah, right. That's just an outdated and quaint concept, as we are being clearly shown in our very own USA by our very own neocon pretend religious fanatics in charge. Democracy is as democracy does. If a minority gets in your way, the object is to destroy them. We are indeed good teachers, no? Think about it. Maybe by our new definition, Iraq is already a democracy. Can our soldiers come home now?

Posted by: Wishful | Nov 21, 2004 4:28:17 PM

I think democracy+Marines ought to do the trick. If Falluja didn't break the back of the insurgency, it was at least a kick in the junk. Sure, insurgents will always have sanctuary, but sanctuary in somewhere where US troops aren't there right now but might be soon is a lot different from sanctuary in Falluja, where US troops weren't there and the terrorists knew that there was no possibility for a US presence without a massive use of force. We have them on the run, as someone once said. Yes, a terrorist is going to be able to kill, blow stuff up, and kidnap without such a safe haven. But not as effectivly, to be sure. So I don't know if the terrorists suffered a broken back, a kick in the pills or a broken arm. But it surely affected them, and it's defeatist of you to take some terrorist attacks THE WEEK AFTER THE OFFENSIVE and say that Falluja didn't work. I mean, that's like taking an asprin and bitching about how it doesn't get rid of your headache five minutes after you swallow the stuff. But I guess calling you a defeatist sort of implies that you want the US to win, which isn't a proposition that I would bet on. But hey, who wouldn't root for the Decapatating Minutemen.

Posted by: matt | Nov 22, 2004 4:24:31 PM

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