Saturday, March 1. 2008
Looks like some things happened the last week while I was mostly unconscious: Fidel Castro stepped down; Pervez Musharaf got booted out; Ehud Barak is back in charge of the IDF and threatening wars against Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and who knows where else. Obama won three more primaries, and has pulled ahead of Clinton in the Texas polls, as well as nationwide polling. Not sure what all else has changed, but Iraq looks pretty familiar.
Tom Engelhardt: The Million Year War (How Never to Withdraw from Iraq). A good, general survey of the current state, complete with links. The current game plan is to win by playing the clock, figuring the longer they can stretch things out the more inured we and they will be to the inevitability of endless occupation. That plays better here than there for the simple reason that it's a lot easier for us to pretend there doesn't exist than it is for them.
Nir Rosen: The Myth of the Surge. Reporting on the ground, with the Sunni militias the US has been subsidizing as proxies to fight against "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," or at least to hold their fire on US troops for a while.
Michael Kinsley: Defining Victory Downward. No reporting here. Kinsley just looks at the semantics behind the "surge" -- that like a wave there would be a surge of troops in, that would in turn allow more troops to leave -- and concludes that the lack of withdrawal shows the lack of success. Sounds right as far as it goes. One problem with battling on the front of rhetoric is that it's easy for a pundit to get tripped up. Kinsley writes:
Sour grapes may be bad manners in Kinsley's game, but it's hard to see any basis for admitting error in opposing the surge (let alone the whole debacle), and it's at least arguable that what's being passed as "good news" is itself a recipe for disaster. The surge was initially proposed as an alternative to the Baker-Hamilton proposal to work out a negotiated political disengagement. It spiked the violence to record levels, which only started to decline when the US switched tactics to sponsor the Awakenings militias. The net effect is that the US bought a little time while adding fuel to the potential civil war and failing to resolve any significant political problems -- not least the most important, which is when the US will give up.
It's never been possible to conceive of what a US "victory" in Iraq might be, at least within the fevered imaginations of the Bush administration crowd. Force alone certainly doesn't work: Israel has an unbroken string of victories over the Palestinians but has only managed to dig itself into a deeper, more debilitating conflict. Even that may look good to Bush: it buys time, the mess eventually becoming someone else's problem. On the other hand, stretching this war out indefinitely only compounds the already immense damage. One need only look at Afghanistan, where whole generations have grown up knowing nothing but war.
Kinsley's "remain eager for disaster" implies that disaster hasn't struck yet. If we're eager for anything, it's that people recognize the disaster that has already occurred.
Tom Engelhardt/Frida Berrigan: Two Recipes for Disaster. More reasons to be cheerful about Iraq.
Helena Cobban: Israeli Deputy Minister Threatens Gaza With 'Shoah'. Israel's frustration over Gaza continues. They keep searching for a solution that will prove final, but their inventory of models leaves a lot to be desired.
I've seen a report that 64% of Israelis favor direct talks with Hamas, but we also see reports calling for Israel to escalate its war. One thing I haven't seen is anyone arguing that Israel should just cut Gaza loose, which seems rather strange given that Sharon's settler withdrawal promised to do just that -- in many minds, even if not in Sharon's. A Gaza free to elect its own leaders and plot its own foreign policy would necessarily be more moderate than the current unoccupied-but-overlorded territory, if only because it would have to deal directly with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the EU, the UN, etc., instead of having everything pass through Israeli hands. Losing Gaza would also make it easier to cut a separate deal with Abbas in the West Bank (not that that seems all that likely).