The views of General Dave

For anyone at a loose end today (especially here in Catalonia, where nationalist overkill is ratcheted up to new levels for the celebration of the Diada), it’s worth taking a peep at the articles on pages 2 and 3 of El País on Iraq. After four years of repeatedly fucking up on various fronts as far as Iraq is concerned, and with the messianic Neocons now firmly off the scene, the world’s military and political superpower seems to have finally hit on the right formula.

The Petraeus Report seems measured and faintly optimistic, and General Dave has apparently drawn it up without pressure from either the Pentagon or White House. Though the 30,000 soldiers forming the surge will be gradually sent home, there are no immediate plans for troop withdrawals, which makes sense, as until gains in reduced violence are capitialised on with advances in the establishment of institutions and the training-up of national security forces, pulling out troops runs the risk of returning to square one. Indeed, one of the key reasons for the failure to maintain the peace after toppling Saddam was troop shortages. With a PhD from Princeton, Petraeus has a clear understanding of the importance of state-building, which, as the neglected Phase 4 part of the invasion strategey, has arguably been the key to the failure of the US-led mission in Iraq.

The other star of the day is the US ambassador in Bagdhad, Ryan Crocker, the Farsi- and Arabic-speakng diplomat who’s affectionately known as ‘our Lawrence of Arabia’. When the invasion of Iraq was in the offing, Colin Powell asked for Crocker’s advice and was told that an invasion would bring ethnic divisions, sectarian conflict, a transition to democracy plagued with problems and the risk of Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia taking advantage of the chaos to boost themselves as regional powers. But he wasn’t cool back then and nobody listened to him. Like Petraeus, Crocker sees clear advances in regions such as al-Anbar, but sees drastic troop reductions as potentially catastrophic.

Unfortunately this has panned out in such a way that as soon as competent people are on the job, public opinion in the US is clamouring for troop reductions and Congress is more opposed to the occupation than ever. Whilst the whole exercise up to now has appeared to have been conducted by a group of Risk afficionados jacked up on party drinks, for there to be any chance of salvaging things and getting the country on course in some form, the US has to stay the distance; it’s clear that viewing Iraq as a quick in and out job was an error right from the start. 

Success in Iraq is also crucial for the US if it’s to continue in its self-appointed role as promoter of democracy and saviour of the oppressed. If it can pull it off in Iraq, then promoting liberal democracy in other (oil-producing) regions of the world will be feasible. If it pulls out and lets Iraq deteriorate even further into a failed state, then intervention in any form other than air strikes will be off the cards for a while to come.    

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~ by Daniel on September 11, 2007.

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