Has Iraq entered a “Lebanese logic”?

Lounsbury has a post on ‘Aqoul on the current predicament in Iraq that I think deserves a lot more attention and discussion than it’s getting. Lounsbury is a financier currently living and working in Morocco with business dealings all over the Middle East and North Africa and experience with Iraq in particular.

Lounsbury believes that the situation in Iraq has entered an inexorable phase of sectarian and ethnic violence not unlike that which has prevailed in Lebanon for a generation:

As I have been indicating for a rather long time, Iraq long ago (say early 2004) entered into a ‘Lebanese logic’ which rather made the creeping civil war situation in Iraq, that is clear for anyone with eye to see, inevitable.

Now, the simple minded I suppose expect(ed) this to explode all at once. It has not and will not. Rather, as in Lebanon, it will creep forward in fits and starts until it is undeniably there for even the most deluded. The self segregation, the inter-community killings and hardening of lines despite decades of friendship, etc., that is already ongoing and there is frankly nothing substantial in terms of Iraqi dynamics counter-weighing this. Iraqi dynamics are all that count, not Americans running around claiming idiotic body counts, not hand waving pseudo-political excercises masquerading as democracy to please the gullible Westerners who think such things have meaning in such circumstances, not anything but Iraqi social dynamics.

There is, in short, nothing that is substantively running against the power dynamic of the hard men with guns. Nothing, period, regardless of the idiotic self-deluded happy talk I have seen now for three f***ing years running. Good news from Iraq, indeed. Even in the depths of any civil war one can find “good news” – it’s intelligent analysis that gets one understanding.

As I understand his reasoning, he believes:

  1. Sectarian and ethnic fighting has already begun in Iraq.
  2. Without a change in the actual dynamics of the situation among Iraqis, the violence will only grow.
  3. What the Brits and Americans are doing now is just slowing down the internecine conflagration.
  4. “Iraqicization” will not solve the problem because the people who comprise the new Iraqi military and police are, themselves, part of the problem.

I believe this post should be taken seriously, discussed dispassionately, and reasoned through. I’m convinced that he knows what he’s talking about, doesn’t have a partisan political axe to grind with respect to U. S. domestic politics, and, if anything, his best interests reside in his being wrong. There’s an old rabbinic saying: “If a woman comes from a far country and tells you she’s divorced, believe her”. In legal parlance this is called a “Declaration Against Interest” and is accorded extra weight as evidence (it’s an exception to the “Hearsay Rule”).

Lounsbury concludes:

The question, then, is not to delude oneself about what the real dynamics are, but ask in what ways can one deal with it. The reactor core is already melting down, pretending that one can find a few more control rods and all will be well is mere self delusion. The question becomes how to deal with the meltdown – and not to, in the process, turn the situation into a supercritical mass and booooom.

I am afraid I lack the genuis to suggest real solutions here, my sole contribution in this context is to strip away the delusional nonsense that many parties are engaging in (or as usual, domestic politics masquerading as foreign).

The debate that was set off in the United States, as far as I can tell from afar, is something long overdue. Rather than idiotic rhetoric, there should be cold assessment of the situation based on Iraqi realities, not misframed Anglo American considerations.

The ensuing comments are good, too. Particularly to the point is the second comment from ZenPundit Mark Safranski:

The conundrum for the U.S. is that it cannot win militarily in Iraq without recourse to tactics that are politically unacceptable – i.e. total war ” free-fire” counterinsurgency operations – and to which the Bush administration is unwilling to pay for by raising another 300,000 troops to implement in any event. As long as the U.S. is not winning militarily the Sunni community in Iraq, sees no reason to negotiate an end to their insurgency

That’s a very succinct description of one of the most important reasons I opposed the invasion to start with. My judgment was that outright victory required means (and losses) that the domestic political support for the invasion would not sustain.

So, read this outstanding post and the comments. Perhaps you have the genius to propose a workable solution.

UPDATE: The flurry du jour is directly related to the subject matter of Lounsbury’s post. Cardinalpark at Tigerhawk joins in:

I’ll repeat what I’ve said many times. Iraq is already “won.” The enemy leader and his heirs are in jail or dead. A new democratic government has been elected, a constitution voted upon and ratified and new elections are upcoming. Boots also cites data which reveals dramatic economic and military progress as well.

Lounsbury’s point remains the dog in the manger: so long as nothing changes the dynamics of the situation in Iraq and the motivations of all the parties remains the same the new government will continue to be at risk without a major U. S. military presence. Can that presence be sustained indefinitely with an ongoing (albeit small) casualty count?

16 comments… add one
  • Barnabus Link

    You suggest discussing dispassionately such comments from Col. as, “…not hand waving pseudo-political excercises masquerading as democracy to please the gullible Westerners.” You think that passes for serious analysis? To totally dismiss the Iraqi constitution and electoral progress that has been made to date is absurd. You further state re: Col., “…doesn’t have a partisan political axe to grind with respect to U. S. domestic politics.” Well, true, no doubt he doesn’t care a wit about U.S. politics, however, he is part of the left wing loon-o-sphere and I’d be surprised if he ever said anything positive about the U.S.

  • Ron Link

    The natural state of arabs is to fight and lose wars. It is in the interest of the developed world to try to change that state, given the natural escalation to weapons of greater potency where even another arab defeat can result in widespread devastation.

    A lot of people make tons of money in the middle of horrendous discord. Arms dealers and people who finance arms deals in particular. There is alot of money to be made in civil wars if you have the right connections. Getting observers from the developed world out of the way would be a top priority for someone with such leanings.

    Meanwhile, aside from Syria and Hisbollah, Lebanon is not looking too bad lately. Deal with those bloodthirsty atholes and Lebanon could be a decent place.

  • Barnie me dear,

    It merely takes A Right Bolshy Loon to characterise someone such as myself as Left (although rather clearly Left here means “someone who criticises me dearly held beliefs, regardless of any objective measures). I am merely contemptuous of Bolshy ideologues, Right or Left.

    In any case, saying “positive” things about the US is quite besides the point (as point in fact I have, mostly in the area of economic policy, but then I have never found ‘praise’ of much interest), although I suppose for the simple minded tribalists like yourself, your weak-minded bleating pride is far too delicate to stand up to actual critiques (and perhaps you’re sensitive about your weight as well).

    As for my dismissal of the constitution and “electoral progress” – well gullible is the word I used for you, and gullible is the word that fits.

    But whatever, idiots like you are part of the bloody problem, you lapped up the idiocy about progress all through 2003, and onwards. You bloody well deserve what you get. Pity it’s fucking pissing away billions, but there it is.

    For my part, I would dearly love for some realism to intrude into the circle of incompetents that have been running the US game over the past three years.

    Ron, of course, is merely a boring blithering bigot spouting some of the more tedious bits of simple minded inanities (although I did like the bit about back-handedly accusing me of being an arms dealer, fine piece of ad hominem that, pity it was wasted in the midst of sub-standard bleating).

  • Let’s look at very particular, narrow component (but far from the only component) of the problems in Iraq: the Sunni Arabs who either are fighting both the Coalition and the nascent Iraqi government or are supporting those who do. They’re fighting for their way of life. There’s no conceivable way that in any fair and equitable division of the power and resources in Iraq they would wield the same whip-hand that they did under Saddam. What would make them stop fighting? Participating in the political process does not preclude continuing to fight. They’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    As I see it some combination of carrots and sticks are required. But right now I don’t see anyone willing to wield a big enough stick and I also don’t see what carrot could be offered.

    The Iraqi military or police will eventually put down the insurgency? That’s just the kind of sectarian violence that Lounsbury is talking about. The social need for vengeance may go way beyond just putting down the insurgency and motivate retaliation.

    I’m just looking for prudent, well-reasoned suggestions. I hope that Lounsbury is wrong. But I’m afraid he’s right.

  • Montero Link

    I could not help but be reminded by Col. of the program “Eliza” written to simulate a human therapist. Col. would be Eliza’s cousin, written to generate insults but ultimately as mindless as Eliza. Fascinating glimpse into a narcissistic degenerate.

  • Folks, how about we discuss the topic rather than just hurling insults?

  • Well, it appears that no one is particularly up to discussing the topic, sadly enough.

    American commentary is all about domestic politics and pissing and moaning (from one perspective or another) about Vietnam and domestic political disputes. Your update by this TigerHawk merely confirms that (although the posting itself is so laughably simple minded as to be comical, were it not sadly reflective of someone’s actual level of understanding).

    Boot, well, Boot is Boot.

    THis sort of nonsense is why I find “blog debate” on the subject so comically bad. Nothing more than nonsensical posturing about issues that are really domestic politics.

    Meanwhile, I would love it if by some Divine Intervention, some serious thought went to actual problems. but it will not.

  • However, I should note this re the Sunni Arabs:
    Participating in the political process does not preclude continuing to fight. They’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    Better, the core elements of the various old power structures, whether tribal or statist have little to lose (relatively speaking) and can foresee in some scenarios much relative gain.

    That’s all it takes.

  • Ron Link

    The analysis by Tigerhawk was so far superior to any ideas that loonsberry presents, that it is absurd to give the loon any credence whatsoever. Dave, if you want meaningful discussion, you have to start with something meaningful. The twit loonsberry cannot provide it.

  • Awww, hurt your feelings my dear little bigot? Well, you keep slinging around inanities like “[t]he natural state of arabs is to fight and lose wars” and other charming classics of simple minded bigotry.

    As to TigerHawk, he simple rambles about “already defeated” rather ignoring that in fact the Iraqi insurgencies have done nothing but grow while the simple minded ideologues kept predicting this or that benchmark etc. would represent the turning point etc. etc. (Of course equally the Left started shrieking about quagmire as a forgone conclusion before the current American administration’s deep seated incompetence actually made it so).

    In short, simple minded politics

  • Cardinalpark at Tigerhawk was right as far as he went. We defeated the army of the Saddam Hussein government and removed that government. That’s not what we’re facing in Iraq any more. Or that’s not all that we’re facing out there. We’re attempting to do things in Iraq that Saddam Hussein with all his horrific tactics wasn’t able to tackle or, in some cases, didn’t even attempt to tackle.

    And the new government of Iraq is enormous progress. As far as it goes. But I have very little confidence that government would survive without engaging in severe repression if the Coalition forces dwindled to a token force in-country. And that’s the current trend. The Coalition forces aren’t just going after jihadis and former Ba’athists. They’re restraining the new government, as well.

    Can we maintain a substantial force in the country indefinitely with a constant drumbeat from the press about mounting casualties and both Democrats and Republicans looking for exit strategies? I don’t see how.

    Consequently, as Lounsbury points out, we need to change the dynamics in Iraq. And that doesn’t just mean holding the parliamentary elections on schedule in December which, while good and a necessary step, is insufficient to change the system of incentives in place right now.

    So, yes, we should celebrate the good. But let’s not pretend that the schools and hospitals built and elections held are turning the country around in any meaningful sense.

  • I’m not a big fan about the “inevitability” of any conflict. I think that people choose. There’s a gradient that nudges them in one direction or another but it is possible for people to fight against the gradient. Sometimes they even win. FDR fought against the isolationist gradient and when Pearl Harbor came around, we were much better prepared because of it. The logic of civil war only holds if there are no outsiders. In a regional war, especially with countries that are driving “their” factions to ruin apurpose, the civil war logic runs aground into something else.

    Both Syria (Sunni supporter) and Iran (Shia supporter) are purposefully driving the Baath and Shia to weaken themselves to satisfy their regional ambitions. They both count on a critical mass inside “their” factions not knowing or caring about this fact. This provides a way out of the logic of civil war. Here, the US and the rest of the international community can play a constructive role because what both these countries are doing crosses the threshold level of international intervention.

    If the Iraqi government (especially an elected one under its own constitution) provides convincing evidence, both Syria and Iran are in deep trouble. The spectre of an outside enemy provides a motive to heal internal animosities. It’s shortsighted and shallow analysis that ignores this possibility. I don’t say that this is absolutely what will happen but it should at least be considered and a part of the calculus of any predictions.

    So in conclusion the schools, hospitals, and elections are significant. They provide the common people with visible confirmation that things can be different. They don’t just have the choice of which strongman to live under in another brutal authoritarian dictatorship. Their choices can see those hospitals joined by other infrastructure that they build themselves or they can see war and repression slowly tear away at the little they’ve got.

    So the next time you’re in Iraq, Mr. lounsberry and you here somebody say “those Sunni/Shia bastards” ask them whether they’re talking about the Iraqi ones or their Syrian/Iranian paymasters. The conversation may lead you in surprising directions.

  • There’s a gradient that nudges them in one direction or another but it is possible for people to fight against the gradient.

    I agree with that, TM Lutas. But I’m not convinced that denying the forces that are at work in Iraq assists in pushing against that gradient and that’s why I’m trying—not very successfully”to move the discussion beyond hurling slogans or, worse, insults and towards analysis and understanding and, perhaps, solutions.

    So in conclusion the schools, hospitals, and elections are significant.

    Once again, I agree. But they’re not dispositive as too many might have it.

  • Schools, hospitals and elections mean jack. Absolutely jack in the face of the general movers. One can prattle on about outsider agitators and what the masses want, it means fuck all when it comes down to actual drivers in this kind of situ. I saw the same bloody kinds of prattle with respect to Leb Land. Did as much good as well.

    But what the bloody hell do I care what fools think? It’s all fucked into a cocked hat anyway.

  • I should note that nowhere have I described the civil war as inevitable as in there is and never was anything to avoid it. It is inevitable given the current facts with respect to real drivers. Those are changeable. However, elections and other little idiocies to make fat Westerners with no experience in the region feel all warm and fuzzy are not going to (and have not to date despite the loaded up expectations, and I do most uncharitably draw attention to the overdone expectations in the American blithering blogoidiocphere in this area) substantially change those dynamics.

    Idle prattle about “freeing” peoples and dictators is nothing more than self decieving ideoglurge.

  • lounsbury – There’s a difference between prattling on about outside agitators and showing off foreign made bombs that have been killing relatives. Just because you throw around labels like idle prattle (and less relevant identifiers) doesn’t make it so. A little less shock words and a little more actual analysis would have been appreciated.

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