Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A while back, I wrote a little blog entry about Iraq, pointing out (back when it was considered crazy to say this) that Iraq really wasn't any better off under American occupation than it was under Saddam Hussein. Now, of course, this is pretty much undisputed, although if there is a such thing as "grudgingly undisputed," then this idea is that.

But the second part of that blog entry was my analysis that the only real option available to the U.S. strategically was to craft a Turkish-style democracy, where the country has a parliament that can basically be overruled, or at least massively influenced by, the country's military, which we would almost completely bankroll. That's basically Turkey's government.

The reason we needed to pursue that option is that Turkey is the only U.S.-friendly country in the region (other than Israel) that has anything you could vaguely refer to as a representative democracy. The other countries in the region are a handful of U.S.-backed monarchies, a few hostile monarchies, and Iran, a hostile hybrid of theocracy and representative democracy.

Of course, in country with a majority religious Shi'ite population, the natural tendency is going to be for the country to fall into the Iran model. So you would need a very well-defined and exquisitely executed strategy to prevent that from happening while you craft the apparatus you are planning to use to exert control over the government once it's created. You'd need to make sure, for example, that a robust distribution system, administered by the military, were created to make sure the population had things like food, water, and electricity, and that the population depended on the military for these things. A big job, no doubt, but all in all pretty simple stuff, especially if you have many thousands of highly-trained, well-equipped troops in-country and Congress has basically written you a blank check for reconstruction efforts.

So, there is a power struggle now among Alawi, our second choice to run the country, Sistani, the first choice of most of the moderate Shi'ite population, and Sadr, the first choice of the more radical elements of that same population. This reminds me of that old football adage about the forward pass - only three things can happen here, and two of them are bad.

Long story short, it would appear that we have invaded a country on a false pretext, overthrown their hostile but basically isolated and powerless government, and are well on our way to replacing that government with a hybrid democracy/Shi'ite theocracy that will immeasurably increase the political power of the region's most powerful hostile government, Iran.

If this actually does happen, and I have heard no one advance a plan for preventing it (today's collaboration between Sistani and Sadr's followers in their effort to semi-peacefully retake Najaf may be a sign that the ship has already sailed), it will leave the U.S. with two legitimately powerful allies in the region - Turkey, whose relationship with the U.S. has been badly strained by, you guessed it, our unprovoked invasion of its downstairs neighbor, and Saudi Arabia, a country with a sizeable Shi'ite population of its own.

Which calls to mind an interesting question - far from being able to name any significant positive achievement of the Bush regime, can anyone even name an initiative this gang undertook whose consequences did not turn out to be even more heinous and ruinous than the most dire predictions ever guessed?

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