Sunday, November 30, 2003

Tacitus addresses all the know it alls of the internet. I want to know why he's calling me a know it all. I haven't gotten personal with him. What? He didn't mean me in particular? Oh. Well anyway:

....what would you do if someone handed you Iraq right now? Iraq and all the tools you might want to fix it up just how you'd like it? Say you were someone with that power. We'll call it a "President." Seems to me like there are several value judgments you'd have to make:

1) What is your primary value with regard to Iraq? Secondary?

2) What sort of state and society do you prefer in Iraq if you leave?

3) What are you unwilling to do to achieve goals 1 and 2?

4) What immediate action would you take upon assumption of command?

5) What long-term action would you take?

6) At what point would you declare your plan a failure?

7) How much time are you willing to allot to your occupation?

You'll have to click through to se his answers, but mine are here (sort of). You may feel I've evaded some of them.

I'm going to start with number four and skip around. I would start by communicating with Sunni leaders in the most troublesome areas of Iraq. I would make dire threats. In particular, that if they keep up the terrorism and demanding we leave, we might leave. What exactly do they think their Shia enemies would do to them then? I wouldn't say specifically that since the large majority of the terrorist attacks were from Sunni we would help the Shia's (covertly if they couldn't accept overt help for political reasons) in any civil war that resulted. I would not necessarily carry out this threat, but I would make it. I would also make threats on the same line to the Shia, though I would need some variations. They seem to believe that responsibility for rebuilding Iraq belongs to us, because if it doesn't happen it will be a horrible blow to American prestige because of the way we did this. They may be right, but it can't be done without their doing more than they are. Since they won't believe we can't do it without more from them, we have to get them to accept that we refuse to.

Now for number one. My primary goal is that Iraq not be a greater overall threat to the United States then it was before we invaded. Of course it couldn't be a worse threat in some ways involving Saddam Hussein, but it could be much worse both as a breeding ground for Al Qaeda and a propaganda and recruiting tool. Our secondary goal is that despite everything we want it to be the opposite, an example of democracy and capitalist prosperity - yes all those things Bush says he wants I want too. But I believe the first is going to be a hard battle, and while the second can be done it could have been done better without invading Iraq.

Three, UNWILLING to do? There are many things I would be unwilling to do, but none that I really believe would help if I had fewer scruples.

Seven, perhaps no limit at all. In the worst case I might well carry out my threat, except for a few special forces to help the Shia if the Sunni were actually winning their little war - if they wanted them. That would be a last resort, worse that anything but a Wahhibi dominated state which might do a North Korea or worse. If some Sunni leaders appeared to be trying to work with us, I might have to keep troops in there for decades. That would be a problem for a president who mislead people on how easy the reconstruction would be, but it would not make them lose faith in me. "You're right, this is a horrible quagmire. We can't leave because it would increase the number of educated scientists working in Wahibbi dominated countries and make nuclear or biological terrorism a reality, but staying here will cost many American lives. I'll try desperately to prevent those deaths, but this is in some ways worse than world war II." Bush can't say that without discrediting his own judgement, but I could.

That brings us to six, never. No matter what happens on my watch, I honestly think it would be better than what would have happened if Bush had continued. Of course the American people would have to judge for themselves.

My answer to number five has been suggested by Stef Wertheimer in the Economist and elsewhere. If the Shia cooperated it might be possible in some areas of Iraq, but frankly I think the beacon of peace and prosperity will probably be in the areas he suggested.

Number two: Prefer? A constitutional democracy. For the minimum see my second answer to the question which Tacitus numbers one.

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