Some congressional Republicans, sensing another electoral disaster in 2008, are beginning to mimic such Democratic arguments. Although the time is not yet ripe for a congressionally required schedule for troop withdrawal to override a presidential veto, the time for blaming the Iraqis and attempting to impose benchmarks will soon arrive.
The administration hopes that the U.S. military escalation will buy the Iraqi government time to meet those benchmarks, specifically those that include refraining from supporting Shiite militias, reversing the U.S.created de-Baathification program that keeps many competent Sunnis out of the Iraqi government, and enacting a law to share oil revenues.
Given the current Iraqi governing structure, dont hold your breath waiting for any of these signs of progress. For example, recently, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malikis office fired high-level security officials who wanted to go after radical Shiite militias. The largely partisan Shiite government is also resisting hiring more Sunnis, and the few Sunnis in the government are threatening to withdraw from it. In addition, the draft agreement to share oil revenues, which was approved by the Iraqi cabinet, has languished in the Iraqi parliament and might very well come apart.
Democrats, Republicans, and eventually even the Bush administration will come to blame the Iraqis to justify the inevitable pull-out of U.S. forces. But such recriminations blame the victims. Even if the al-Maliki government had the best of intentionswhich is not at all clearit would be unlikely to overcome the powerful centrifugal forces in this fractious and violent Iraq society. Congress and the Bush administration act as if they believe that any government can remedy problems with only the stroke of a pen. But U.S. officials experience is in America. Despite the presence of numerous ethnic and racial groups in this country, the U.S. government rests on a bedrock of shared values in the larger society. In Iraq, no such societal consensus exists.
Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Sunnis and Shia lived in peace with each other only because of Saddams iron rule. Iraq is an artificially created country that was held together at gunpoint. Because of the internal tensions caused by the Iran-Iraq War, the first Gulf War, and the grinding international economic sanctions against Iraq for more than a decade, Saddam, to defend his Sunni minority regime, created permanent inter-group bitterness by repressing and slaughtering Kurds and the majority Shia. When Saddams autocratic regime was destroyed by the U.S. invasion, the country predictably unraveled into warring factions. The only surprising thing was the Bush administrations astonishment at this outcome.
The administration and congressional Democrats and Republicans have not yet admitted that any Iraqi government, short of another Saddam-like dictatorship, cannot maintain a unified Iraq. A substantial majority of Iraqis dont want to be Iraqi citizens. The Kurds and a majority of Shia would like to go their own way. The Sunnis probably would too, if guaranteed some oil or oil revenues. Even if the United States, in desperation, threw its support behind another authoritarian leader in waiting, that person, in order to rule a stable and unified Iraq, would have to win the civil war that is already in its early stages.
It may be too late to save Iraq from a massive bloodbath, but the only hope remaining is to attempt to use a U.S. withdrawal to hammer out an agreement that would decentralize the Iraqi government, allow self-determination among the various groups, and create oil revenue sharing. This decentralization plan could take the form of a loose confederation of autonomous regions or even a partition into several states. Given the history of Iraq, each sectarian/ethnic group is afraid that the central government, controlled by another group, will oppress the others and take a disproportionate share of the oil revenues. An agreement to decentralize governance and share oil revenues could alleviate many of these concerns.
The Bush administration doesnt have much time left to orchestrate a withdrawal with decentralization because the main groups in Iraq are splintering and may not be able to guarantee that their sub-factions will observe any agreement that is reached. It is still worth an administration attempt, though. The alternative is full blown civil war with U.S. forces caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, the administration seems frozen in the headlights of the onrushing train.
Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute and Assistant Editor of The Independent Review. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office, Evaluator-in-Charge (national security and intelligence) for the U.S. General Accounting Office, and Investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Full Biography and Recent Publications
Jonathan J. Bean is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at Southern Illinois University, and editor of the forthcoming book, Race and Liberty: The Classical Liberal Tradition of Civil Rights.
Gregory is a Research Analyst at The Independent Institute. He earned
his bachelor's degree in American history from the University of California
at Berkeley and gave the undergraduate history commencement speech in
2003. In addition to his work with the Independent Institute, he regularly
writes for numerous news and commentary web sites, including LewRockwell.com,
Future of Freedom Foundation, and the Rational Review.
Dominick T. Armentano is professor emeritus in economics at the University of Hartford (Connecticut) and a research fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. He is author of Antitrust & Monopoly (Independent Institute, 1998).
Alvaro Vargas Llosa is director of The Center on Global Prosperity at The Independent Institute. He is a native of Peru and received his B.S.C. in international history from the London School of Economics. He is widely published and has lectured on world economic and political issues including at the Mont Pelerin Society, Naumann Foundation (Germany), FAES Foundation (Spain), Brazilian Institute of Business Studies, Fundación Libertad (Argentina), CEDICE Foundation (Venezuela), Florida International University, and the Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce. He is the author of the Independent Institute books The Che Guevara Myth and Liberty for Latin America. Full biography and recent publications.
Gabriel Roth is a transport and privatization consultant and a research fellow at the Independent Institute, where he is editing a book on private-sector roles in the provision of roads, Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads.
Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute,
author of Against Leviathan and Crisis and Leviathan, and editor of the
scholarly quarterly journal, The Independent Review. Click
here for a bio on Dr. Higgs, the noted economist and historian.
William Marina is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., and Professor Emeritus of History at Florida Atlantic University.
T. Beito is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, Associate
Professor of History at the University of Alabama, and co-editor of
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Voluntary City: Choice, Community and Civil Society.
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