Sunday, June 17

Iraq is NOT Korea, It's Northern Ireland and we're the Brits

Today on Fox News Sunday General Patraeus yet again claimed that we should be able access the success (or lack thereof) of The Surge™ by this September.

[By then we should have a] reasonable and a realistic sense [of whether the escalation is] working or not working. I’ve said that all along. I started saying that back in January. I think we’ll have had by then our forces in the mix for a good several months.

Although he also stated that the escalation won't be "done" by then...

Wallace: [Do you believe] the job will be done by September?

Patraeus: I do not, no

Instead Patraeus went on to endorse the so-called Korea Model for Iraq, where we are likely to have forces in place for the next 50 years!

Are you fracking kidding me?

I knew that neo-con lapdogs like Patreaus had a problem with The Book Learnin' and The Science and stuff, but I really didn't really that they were completely ignorant of history too.

The nutshell of the Korean Model goes like this, as described by Dan Froomkin in the WaPo.

It’s troubling because American troops have been in South Korea for more than 50 years — while polls show the American public wants them out of Iraq within a year.

It’s flawed because in South Korea, unlike Iraq, there’s something concrete to defend (the border with North Korea); and because Iraq, unlike South Korea, happens to be in a state of violent civil war.

It’s dangerous because the specter of a permanent military presence in Iraq is widely considered to be one of the most inflammatory incitements to Iraq’s ever-growing anti-American insurgency, and may even be destabilizing to the entire region.

And it’s telling because it gives credence to persistent suspicions that establishing a long-term strategic presence in the Middle East was a primary motivation for this misbegotten war in the first place.

To his credit Patraeus did throw a pinch of salt on this Iraq is Korea nonesense.

[The Iraq conflict] is not one that’s going to be resolved in a year or even two years. In fact, typically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years.

The question is, of course, at what level, how much will we have to continue to contribute during that time, how much more can the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government pick up as it goes along, and I think that’s the real question. And I’m not sure what the right analogy is, whether it’s Korea or what have you. I think all that the folks in Washington were trying to indicate by that was that there’s some possibility of some form of long-term security arrangement over time, and I think in general that that’s probably a fairly realistic assessment, assuming that the Iraqi government, in fact, does want that to continue and, of course, it is very much up to them and their sovereignty is paramount in all of this.

The Korea War began as a conflict between two distinct states, the communist Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the North which was supplied and supported by China vs the capitalist People's Republic of Korea in the South which were supported by UN Forces which were largely American. Technically that War never really ended, there was a cease fire called in 1953, three years after hostilities began but either side actually surrendered and both North and South Korea have certainly not re-unified and completely reconcilled. That's why our troops are still there.

There was no insurgency in Korea.

There was no internecine warfare or religious sectarian violence.

There was no Abu Ghraib.

There was no al Qeada, or al-Sistani or al-Sadr.

We did not invade a sovereign nation without legitimate justification or provocation - we were invited to support the South under UN Security Council Resolution 62 in response to the attack by North Korea against the South.

IMO and as James Carrol of the Boston Globe has noted (h/t teacherken) A far better model than Korea for the current conflict in Iraq would be The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

There you have 30 years of intense sectarian violence between Protestant Unionist and Roman Catholic Nationalist who sought to create an independent Republic of Ireland, and an end to their occupation by the British Army.

They did have their own version of al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents, namely the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as well as loyalist paramilitary forces similar to the Shia Militias such as the Ulster Voluanteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

Like our own forces in Iraq, British forces who claimed to simply be trying to "keep the peace" were seen as working in collusion with unionist forces and were attacked frequently with bombings (IED's?) which did manage to occur even on British soil. (I guess fighting them "over there" really didn't help them all that much did it?)

Much like the split between Sunni and Shia in Iraq, the divide between Irish Catholics and Protestants goes back some centuries - all the way to 1609 and two bloody ethno-religious conflicts over plantation rights in 1641 and 1689.

Because of the weight of all this history, the conflict in Northern Ireland was thought to be insurmountable and intractable. Yet eventually solutions began to be found over the course of 3 tumultuous years in involving two cease-fires (in 1994 and 1996) and a shift from the use of arms to the use of persuasion through the political process via the IRA's political wing Sinn Fein and it's leader Gerry Adams.

But it wasn't easy.

On June 16, 1994, just before the ceasefires, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) killed two UVF members in a gun attack on the Shankill road. In revenge, three days later, the UVF killed six civilians in a shooting at a pub in Loughinisland, County Down. The IRA, in the remaining month before its ceasefire, killed four senior loyalists, three from the UDA and one from the UVF. There are various interpretations of the spike in violence before the ceasefires. One theory is that the loyalists feared the peace process represented an imminent "sellout" of the Union and ratcheted up their violence accordingly. Another explanation is that the republicans were "settling old scores" before the end of their campaigns and wanted to enter the political process from a position of military strength rather than weakness.

Eventually, in August 1994, the Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire. The loyalist paramilitaries, temporarily united in the Combined Loyalist Military Command, reciprocated six weeks later. Although these ceasefires failed in the short run, they mark an effective end to large-scale political violence in the Troubles as it paved the way for the final ceasefire.

The second cease-fire was implemented in 1996 and helped paved the way for the Belfast Agreement in 1998 between all four major parties, including Sinn Fein, establishing a "power-sharing" model for an independant and self-governing Northern Ireland.

This Model, one that focuses not on overwhelming military might but instead on persuasion and diplomacy is one that has a far better hope of ending the violence in Iraq than The Surge. As both the ISG and Harry Reid have noted we can not win Iraq militarily anymore than the British Empire was likely to crush the IRA and other nationalists in Northern Ireland.

But here's the thing, one major factor in helping lend legitimacy to Sinn Fein was the involvment of Senator George Mitchell who crafted The Mitchell Principles in 1997 which were signed both by Sinn Fein and the British Government and began to create a pathway to peace. It took the diplomatic intervention of a neutral third party to bring the various factions to the table. It should also be noted that Mitchell's efforts were helped greatly by President Bill Clinton who in placed Gerry Adam's on the world stage by inviting him to Washington in 1996 (although not to the White House - that step would take several more years).

Another model which fits far better than Korea is that of the Bosnia War, where an enormous three part US, Russian and European forces ended a brutal complex three-way conflict between Muslim, Croat and Serbs in the former Yugoslavia. (This is the model originally suggested by General Shinseki)

And look, it didn't take 50 years did it?

Again President Bill Clinton took the initiative and used diplomacy to forge a consensus among the world's nations and leaders that the ethnic cleansing taking place in that region had to be stopped. His efforts led the the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, just 3 years after he took office.

Unfortunately, we are not a neutral third party in Iraq as we had been in Northern Ireland and in Bosnia. We have far too much skin-in-the-game to be able to negotiate cleanly and evenly with all parties, just as the Brits couldn't. They failed at it for 30 years.

We can't win this militarily and we can't just walk away without risking everything turning to complete crap. Even though there is the thin-hope that our departure might help the Iraqis refocus (as has been advanced by John Murtha), just as the the Brit leaving Northern Ireland did. But the rub is that in their case there was an agreement in place and we don't yet have even that.

Basically, we're screwed.

We've flushed our credibility completely away with the lack of WMD's, lack of Yellowcake, the Torture, the Abu Ghraib, the failure of the rebuilding process, the failure to train and equip the Iraqi Forces and now this bull-crap about Korea and keeping our forces in the region for the next half century.

What's needed are new and innovative diplomatic solutions, and they just might have to come from some very unexpected quarters such as France (who happened to have control of the mines the Yellowcake was supposedly taken from) or possibly Germany (who had custody of "Curveball" and knew he was full of it) or other countries who still have some diplomatic clout and credibility left, someone who hasn't made the wrong decision time after time after time.

Frankly, we don't need the Iraqi Parliament to decide everything - because that process is going to take years. (Look at how well our own government is doing with Immigration, eh? Does anyone think a forced deadline would help our Congress Git 'er Done? I don't.) The Iraqis are not going to simply jump up and crank out legislation and complex agreements on our timetable. Not gonna happen, even if they weren't as dysfuctional as family of crack-addicts.

Instead, based on the Northern Ireland and Bosnia Models what I think is needed is to get together the major faction leaders - some Sunni, some Shi'a, some Kurd - including people like Sustani and al-Sadr and have them hammer out the details of some type of basic roadmap to peace and conditions for a cease-fire by the insurgents and militias in a Summit. It doesn't have to happen in Iraq, the Dayton Accords didn't take place in Bosnia - they were in Ohio. But it does have to happen, and once it does the Iraqi Parliament can simply vote on it and begin to flesh out the details.

It won't happen overnight. It won't be pretty. Northern Ireland is still going through the birth-pains of becoming a brand new democracy.

Iraq hasn't even begun conception yet but sadly, it's going to take someone else - someone neutral who hasn't shredded their own credibilty like paper-mache - to get this party started.

Exactly who that might be (Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Germany, France, Italy?) is the 640,000 live question.


No comments: