Monday, June 14, 2004

Clearly Colonel Mike Turner isn't the first one to hit upon this idea (even if he thinks he is), but the number of published articles is growing which call for a radically decentralized system of federalism for Iraq -- in reality, confederalism if even that.
Until now, our premise has been to reshape Iraq as a single, democratic nation within the British-imposed boundaries of 1918. But that is, frankly, an impossible task. Anyone who has studied the region and who sees the predictable jockeying going on now for a seat in the U.S.-imposed government knows such a solution will never work. The real opportunity we have, having deposed Saddam, is to allow the three nations that comprise what we call modern Iraq�the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shiites�to shape their own futures . . .

By redefining our political objective and limiting it, we would be able to limit our military mission to one supporting a population that would welcome us, the Kurds. We would cut our losses in the south and, who knows, maybe the Shiites would actually think more favorably of a United States that let them go. Then again, maybe not. But so what? We�re not going to impose our will on the south anyway, and we�re going to destroy all chance for success anywhere else in the country if we try. The Shiites will simply not be constrained by the U.S. notion of a greater Iraq.

It�s a radical solution, I know, but it makes real sense. It�s only a partial win for the Americans, but it�s a win just the same. And it�s the Powell doctrine at its best. An achievable political end state, a limited military objective in the north, an easy exit strategy and a virtual guarantee of international support. It�s amazingly simple, and it could give the Bush administration a way out. Not that this White House deserves one. But our troops do.
The really new ground broken in this short opinion piece is advice to give up on controlling the Shi'ite parts of the country. Believing the south will fall within an Iranian sphere of influence sooner or later regardless of what the US does, Turner's view is that a rump Shi'ite state under Tehran's thumb is better than all of Iraq.

Perhaps even more interesting, Turner worked two years for Wes Clark. If Clark has a hand in a future Kerry administration, perhaps this kind of clear thinking might make headway even in the face of "progressive internationalism".


At 9:28 AM, Blogger geopoliticus said...

This article is hilariously ignorant and includes many illusions that have a common source in the, lately, flawed american thinking about international relations: if I conceive a "clever" idea, it will materialise without further ado. Reality is something secondary, when it exists at all.

My thoughts on this "creative" idea and Turner's article:

First, Iraq is composed of two nations, not three. Sunni and Shia are both arabs.

Second, how could the americans possibly give Kirkuk (and maybe Mosul) to the Kurds, without a fierce civil war (in which they would be a part, siding with the Kurds)?

Three, I can't understand why Baghdad is thought to be a sunni city, when at least 40% of the population is shia. If you want to give Baghdad to a future Sunni state, you�d better ask al-Sadr first!

Turner writes: The Turks wouldn�t be happy, but their displeasure would be manageable...Turkey would never risk its standing in NATO by attacking U.S. troops.Keep dreaming! An independent Kurdistan would be the number one national security threat for Turkey and their reactions would be utterly unmanageable. Probably they won't attack american soldiers (but I wouldn�t bet on it). Turkey has many other options to make a Kurdish state, and the American presence in it, unviable.

...but a rump Shiite state aligned with Iran would not significantly shift the regional balance...Yeah, sure, no big deal. The Gulf monarchies with shiite minorities or majorities will be delighted!

Let's for a moment accept that this scenario is possible. Could someone explain to me what will be the usefulness of the US army in Kurdistan? I can understand that it will protect the Kurds, but what else? It won't be capable for power projection against Syria or Iran, it will not have secure lines of supply and it will not have specific goals.


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