The "Surge" Won't Work -- A Wilsonian Solution for Iraq
Colin Powell, perhaps apocryphally, warned President Bush in the build up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, “If you break it you buy it.” Irrespective of the dubious intelligence upon which the case for war in Iraq was built, little disagreement exists upon the following statement: It was Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship that maintained the fragile peace between the various sects and ethnic factions in Iraq.
Now, nearly four years and a third of a trillion dollars later, with Saddam Hussein awaiting the hangman's noose, Iraq is plunging headlong into civil war. US forces, caught in the crossfire, are fighting a loosing battle – attempting to impose nationhood upon an unstable and unwilling collection of warring factions.
It is an effort that can only end in failure.
Iraq, if it is to exist as a unified state entity, must follow a singular path. Unable and unwilling to accept the compromise of representative government, one faction must ultimately conquer and subordinate the others in what will likely prove to be a bloody, brutal, and lengthy civil war. If the United States is to continue in its occupation of Iraq throughout this process it will suffer the consequences – both in blood and treasure - as warring factions seek legitimacy by striking at an unpopular foreign garrison.
Though noble in intent, even the Pentagon’s planned escalation, a “surge” of troops, is unlikely to avert this long, slow, bleed. A temporary increase in the number of US troops will have little lasting impact on sectarian and ethnic tensions now hundreds if not thousands of years old. Indeed, the “surge” may have the unintended political affect of ending what little political support for the Iraq war still exists in the United States. Should the violence persist, the American public may very well interpret that failure as the death-knell of an American presence in Iraq.
Alternatively, the United States may, as it did in the days of the Cold War, choose a favored side in a deeply sectarian conflict, hoping to influence the outcome and secure a friendly government in the Middle East though at a prohibitive cost, both politically and economically.
Neither option is likely to be seen as desirable, both by a President unwilling to compromise upon the fundamental wisdom of the decision to invade and a public increasingly dubious of the long term stability and viability of the President’s plan for the region.
A third option exists.