Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Where We Stand

The Axis of Evil.

Iraq. Now a civil war. If Fareed Zakaria is saying it, that's bad.

Recent estimates suggest higher number of casulties--650,000--though tough to know how accurate these stats are. If even roughly accurate, that's higher than during our failed policy of embargo whihc killed about 500,000 (Bush 41 and Clinton).

The government of Maliki is a failure. John Warner realizes it as does our Ambassador Khalilzad. Our civilian leadership has failed. Our military did what was required in the war phase but was asked to do what it can not--broker political change.

The idea of a division into 3, which is happening of its own, has serious problems. The largest being that the Sunni Western lands could become the next Waziristan--a homebase for al-Qaeda units. Some have argued that the Sunni tribesmen will expel/kill any foreign al-Qaeda elements once they have their own country.

That may be, but the example of Waziristan and the mountainous Pakistan-Afghan border could be a negative example. The Taliban have regrouped there and have gone about systematically killing any local tribal elders connected to the Pakistani government. The evilest guys often win sadly in these fights. The Iraq analogy is not totally clear to me. It is well known that both insurgents and al-Qaeda in Iraq types have targeted Sunni elders who have supported the elected government. If the Sunnis completely withdraw from that setup, it is unclear whether al-Qaeda would still be a threat vis a vis the Sunnis. Would the Iraq Sunnis align with the AQ and send them on suicide missions into the Shia heartlands? As long as the Sunnis feel that any divided land is rightfully their own, then they will see it as occupation (by the Shia) and therefore will initiate further suicide attacks and daily car bombs.

Either way have a tough time seeing the Iraqi Sunnis not becoming Palestinian-like, living in the past of a dream of a return to the Sunni hegemonic state. We have abandoned Anbar already. Bush is right that it could easily become the next base--right in the heart of Arabia--for al-Qaeda, but he is powerless to do anything about it anyway. His/our only hope is that by bringing Saudi/Jordanian/Syrian influence in, the Iraqi Sunnis can keep them out--if they want to (?).

Worse still is the possibility that Iraq as this civil war expands will become a Middle Eastern version of the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), which during the 90s saw the bloodiest war on the planet, with millions dying, as multiple countries backed opposing sides with the Congolese Civil War, turning it into their own private 30 Years War. Rwanda, Uganda, Mozambique, all had troops/resources sent into the Congo.

That analogy would be the Turks invovled to stop an independent Kurdistan; the Saudis/Jordanians supporting their Sunni cousins in the West; Iran for the Shia; and Syria probably playing all sides.

Power has so devolved to the lccal context that even Moqtada al-Sadr can not control the entirety of his Madhi Army any longer. Though he does still control the portfolio of the minstry of health,which his loyal elements use as a post for killing Sunnis brought to hospitals--who are then buried in mass graves.

Plus, the US has no real military solution. The so-called ink spot counterinsurgency solution, which advocates taking, holding, and then connecting an initial spot radiating outward from there--the strategy used by the British in Malaysia--will not work. That formula is based on a agrarian population, not a communications-linked open-source insurgency.

North Korea.

At every turn Kim Jong Il has flaunted American/Western statements of, e.g. testing this missile is unacceptable; exploding a nuclear weapon will not stand.

The one bright spot in this drama is that Japan's new prime minister Abe, has pulled a Nixon goes to China (Abe goes to China), opening up interesting possibilities with Japan's strong push towards strong economic sanctions. China still on the fence, but inching ever so slightly towards Japan/US/South Korea (?).

Bush's overturning of the bilateral framework setup by Clinton did pull North Korea faster into the nuclear orbit. Although to be fair, the North Koreans were headed--as Perry admits in his op-ed--towards a weapon, just that the deal in place would have forestalled that reality for many more years. So what ifs, being what they are, we might have faced this issue in 10 years time and be in the same place. Though longer time would possibly have allowed stronger Chinese-US ties, which is the real key to the North Korean issue.

Iran sees what is occurring and takes note. Once they have the bomb they will be left alone. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have strengthened their hand immeasurably. This administration seems incapable of differentiating between authoritarian but co-optable Iran with totlitarian, madman North Korea. And by continually putting them in the same category, we bring them closer to one another and each can cause disruptions, allowing the other time to be left alone.

Cheney's notion of the 1% Doctrine and unilateral American supremacy (the policy for the New American Century) held sway during the first four years of this presidency. That policy failed in the insurgency of Iraq.

Condi and her neo-realist/sanctionist policies have dominated the last 2/3 years, and have equally failed on the shoals of North Korean nukes and (a future) Iranian one.

You sense that they have no options left, that this administration is bankrupt foreign policy-wise. These are going to be, I fear, some ugly lame duck years coming up. And whoever the next president of this country might be, s/he is going to have a helluva time fixing this mess.

The US is as isolated as it has ever been since the WWII. That is partly our fault, partly the fault of "Old Europe". The nations of the world sense our weakness and that the US Empire is crumbling; they are grasping for whatever territory/weaponry/strategic advantage possible in the waning days.


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