Monday, January 31, 2005



A success

The Iraqi elections have been declared a success, with a turnout estimated at around 60%. That's something to celebrate, at least. These elections were the one good thing which can be salvaged from the entire bloody mess of Iraq, and while I do not think they were worth the estimated 100,000 excess deaths, they at least are some compensation which will hopefully lead to a better future for Iraqis.

Meanwhile, former British foreign minister Robin Cook sees the elections as an opportunity to change the direction of British policy in Iraq. He starts by making the obvious point:

we must recognise that the longer the occupation has continued, the stronger the resistance to it has grown. There can be no credible programme to reduce support for the resistance unless we convince the Iraqi people that we have an exit strategy within a realistic timeframe.

In this, he's simply recognising the empirical data on why occupations succeed or fail. One of the key determinants in whether an occupation will be successful is whether there is a credible guarantee to withdraw and turn over power. So far this has been entirely lacking in Iraq, with the US government engaging in manipulation to ensure a compliant, pro-US puppet regime.

His second point should also be familiar to those who read the Dobbins piece on disengagement:

[we must] avoid repeating the mistake of the past year in which we have allowed the interim government to become identified with the occupying authorities. We should welcome, not discourage, any measure of independence demonstrated by the new assembly, such as repealing the Bremer decrees on the foreign purchase of Iraqi assets.

To this end, he suggests ending the taint of collaboration with the occupiers by relocating the Iraqi government outside the Green Zone, putting the reconstruction in the hands of Iraqis rather than companies widely seen as Bush's cronies, and ending all rhetoric about Iraq being "a model for the region". The underlying idea, which has been so-far absent from American plans, is that Iraqis should get the government they want - not the one that people in Washington or London want.

It's a sensible plan; the only question is whether the British and American governments will accept it, or whether they will continue to try and gain some return on their "investment"...

6 comments:

"These elections were the one good thing which can be salvaged from the entire bloody mess of Iraq, and while I do not think they were worth the estimated 100,000 excess deaths, they at least are some compensation which will hopefully lead to a better future for Iraqis."

How very utilitarian of you to say so.

Brian S

Posted by Anonymous : 1/31/2005 07:07:00 PM

Whats this about no credible guarantee to withdraw? Bush has said repeatedly US troops will leave if asked to by the incoming Iraqi goverment.

And why are you trying to portray a bunch of violent religious thugs and mercenary kidnappers as a "resistance"? They arent exactly the rebels in Star Wars are they.

AL

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 1/31/2005 08:30:00 PM

Brian: just because I'm not a much of consequentialist does not mean I can't recognise that the elections, flawed as they are, are a genuinely Good Thing and a positive step.

AL: The problem with Bush's promises is that Iraqis for some reason just don't believe him. maybe it's their long experience of broken promises over such basics as power and water, maybe its the broken promises about their being allowed to determine their own destiny (which is why the American procurator in Baghdad tried to fundamentally restructure their economy and then entrench the provisions, without consulting Iraqis), or maybe its just the background hum from American hawks about how the desert bases they're planning to build will give them strategic dominance of the region and allow them to threaten Iran and Syria.

As for "resistance", I believe it is the correct term for someone who resists an invader. But feel free to call them something else if you'd like.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/31/2005 09:24:00 PM

You may call them what you will, but it makes very little difference to the dozens dying every day whether it's from insurgent/terrorist bullets and bombs or liberator/occupying force bullets and bombs.

The point is that those who have taken authority have a moral and legal duty to return the place to some kind of order. Cook and Dobbins' suggestions strike me as eminently sensible and I son't see too many other proposals out there aside from "we're staying the course", and hasn't that worked so well.

Posted by michael wood : 1/31/2005 10:53:00 PM

The term "resistance" is value positive, or at least value neutral. Generally it is used to describe a political movement fighting for freedom. That definition does not apply in Iraq.

So i repeat: why are you describing people who knowingly plot against Iraqis and a future democratic Iraq as a "resistance"?

On Bush: you claim he and his Administration havent delivered on his promises. Yet there have been remarkable gains in quality of life in areas of Iraq not targetted by your "resistance".

I challenge you to describe any country which builds and maintains infrastructure while local thugs and foreigners supported by neighbouring countries target civil servants, engineers and pro-democracy politicians.

From what Iraqi blogs i've read, and an Iraqi PhD student at my University has told me, Bush & the Republican Party are relatively popular with the majority of Iraqis - but then its not hard when the standard for their comparison is Saddam's Sunni Ba'athists, the UN corruption which fed them, and the Russians and French who armed them.

You state the US is building bases to threaten Syria and Iran. I state that Syria and Iran are undemocratic and repress their own populations, and are exporting violence and thug habits to Iraq.

That should make them your enemy, but your tone reveals you have an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" attitude.

Your use of the word "procurator" suggests you wish to portray the US as a modern day Roman Republic. The key to empires is their practice of establishing colonies in far away countries, whom control the ongoing political direction of those countries. Where are the American colonies?

There would not be a democratic Iraq without the US invasion and subsequent installation of the CPA.

It sounds like you support thugs and thug countries merely because they oppose the US.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/01/2005 09:35:00 PM

"So i repeat: why are you describing people who knowingly plot against Iraqis and a future democratic Iraq as a "resistance"?"

AL - You know why. It is because the author of this blog is a moral relativist who basically hates America.

Brian S

Posted by Anonymous : 2/01/2005 10:24:00 PM