Thursday, November 16, 2006

# Posted 9:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPECTACULARLY WRONG YET AGAIN: OxBlog, that is. Here's what I wrote three weeks before the invasion of Iraq:
LESSONS OF KOSOVO: Paul Wolfowitz seems to agree with OxBlog that ethnic violence will not present a serious threat to postwar Iraq, despite its devastating effects in Kosovo. As Wolfowitz told the NYT, Iraq's "ethnic groups have not had decades of slaughtering one another as happened in the Balkans. The problem in Iraq is a regime that slaughters everybody, it's equal opportunity repression,' he said." Sounds sorta like an evil version of the 14th amendment...
I'm not going to try to back out of that one or pretend I didn't say what I clearly said. I never thought that Sunnis would support an insurgency whose essential strategy is to slaughter as many innocent Shi'ites as possible in order to provoke a civil war. I never thought that Arab Muslims would behave in such a brutal manner toward other Arab Muslims. Slaughtering Jews in Israel or black Muslims in Darfur is one thing. But I never expected this kind of genocidal hatred across the Sunni-Shi'a divide.

There is also the question of misunderstanding Iraq as a one-man dictatorship as oppoosed to an ethnic dictatorship. As the post above indicates, I clearly saw Iraq as Saddam's regime, not a Sunni regime. I'm still not sure to what extent it was one or the other.

Clearly, one can argue that Sunnis support the insurgency because they were conditioned for decades to see politics in Iraq as ethnic warfare. But if memory serves, there were also tens of thousands of Sunni victims of the regime as well, so its ethnic identity far from self-evident.

By the way, I owe a significant debt to my brother M for finding the post cited above, all on his own initiative. He just wanted to know how well certain pundits anticipated what was to come in Iraq.

And before I go, one more error to cite. If you click on the words "ethnic violence" above, you will arrive at a post from February 23, 2003 in which I ask:
Will postwar Iraq descend into a maelstrom of ethnic, communal[,] religious violence? Looking for answers, I came across this article by Ted Gurr, a professor at the University of Maryland...

One trend that bodes well for postwar Iraq is that "The new democracies of Europe, Asia, and Latin America were especially likely to protect and promote minority rights."
Clearly, an aggressive push for democracy has not prevented the slaughter in Iraq. Why did I expect it would? Because I never expected the minority in Iraq to intentionally provoke a vicious civil war. In my post I cited the examples of Kosovo, Sudan and East Timor, where minorities were the principal victims of ethnic cleansing or civil war.

Even now, I don't understand how the Sunni minority expects to prevail. After a long interval of Shi'ite restraint, the death squads have emerged. If the Americans go, the Shi'ites will almost certainly prevail, thanks to both their militia and their American-trained army.

We have been familiar with suicide bombing for quite a while, but what we may be watching now is the first suicide of an entire ethnicity.
(14) opinions -- Add your opinion

The Sunnis made the wrong decision early on in the war to resist the occupation rather than try to get a piece of the pie. They allowed Al-Qaeda to set up shop in their part of Iraq, and are now fightinag against them in an effort to take back the Sunni triangle. Another mistake was to threaten not to take part in any type of government, holding out while everyone was already writing up the seating chart, and filling the Iraqi army with Shia and Kurdish soldiers. The Sunni leadership has consistently come late to the party and has reaped the results.

One good thing is that Sunni tribal leaders, and in Iraq the tribal leaders hold much more sway than govenment officials do, is that once they throw support behind the Iraqi police and Army forces, and actually push their tribesmen in to uniform, the Coalition and the Iraqi government actually get what they asked for, Sunnis in uniform supporting the government in Sunni areas.

Whether you believe it or not, there is progress of just this sort being made, and in the direction of indigenous froces taking charge of securoty, but if we withdraw US troops too quickly, the security forcs will fall into sectarian support roles if only to ensure their survival. I think the Lebanese Civil War provides some insight into the dangers of the current situation in Iraq.
"ethnic violence will not present a serious threat to postwar Iraq": what's your excuse? Youth?
It only takes a few nuts to set off a bomb in a Shiite mosque. Your prose (especially the bit about "ethnic suicide") sort of suggests that all sunni are responsible for what's about to befall them. Perhaps I'm being uncharitable...I'm sure you don't mean it to sound that way.
Your errors are due to unfamiliarity with the Mideast. Wolfowitz and his superiors have no such excuse. As a result, we are now experiencing one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in American history. I'm not sure if the senior people in the administration realize this. I hope you do.
"As a result, we are now experiencing one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in American history."

How do you define greatest foreign policy disaster anon? The history is quite brief, but I can think of a few things that would count as a major/larger disaster.
How do you define greatest foreign policy disaster?

I think he meant the difference between expectations and results multiplied by cost.
I think the Sunni arabs expect help from the other majority Sunni arab states. How valid that hope is is another question. IF that hope is fulfilled, we may well see another Vietnam parallel, albeit without the US, as the Sunni states conduct a proxy war with Iran within Iraq.
I can't respond to that other/same anon. The wording "one of" creates to much space. It would be easy to think of a few disasters that outrank Iraq in every way.
That wacko liberal George Will calls Iraq "arguably the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history." If you can think of think of a few disasters that outrank Iraq in every way, please do tell. Hopefully to stay on point, you'll limit them to American foreign policy disasters.

The Phillipines.
You must really dislike Southerners if you think Gettysburg and Sharpsburg were foreign policy disasters.

And the Ardennes and Peleliu were disastrously difficult battles in a much larger war. The Battle of Ardennes was in WWI, and the US hadn't even entered the war yet.

Vietnam. This is true in terms of blood and treasure, but not in terms of lasting prestige. One of Clinton's successes was the rapprochement with Hanoi, and judging from W's trip there, our relations are now pretty normal.

I don't know anything about the Philippines.

The Bay of Pigs might have made your list. It was a poorly executed really dumb idea from 45 years ago. Why we don't have normal trade relations with a country 90 miles away has more to do with wacky Florida electoral politics. Former Majority Leader Dick Armey said as much when he retired.

Somalia was bad but irrelevant.
Somalia isn't irrelevant if you are judging policy by results. I agree that Bay of Pigs should have been on the list.

Ardennes counts as the Battle of the Bulge which was a disaster. Peleliu wasn't only difficult, it wasn't even necessary.

The Phillipines and Korea remind me of Iraq more then any other conflict in U.S. history.

-War of 1812, my nomination for biggest disaster
-civil war, it could count as two nations fighting each other. They did file the proper paper work.
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