Bush's rhetoric is actually hurting diplomacy by limiting our options in Iraq. "It could [backfire]," political analyst John Dickerson told FOX News, "Because part of the president's strategy relies on withdrawal. In negotiation with Iraqi leaders, the president has said, his ambassador in Iraq has said, 'look, if you don't shape up, progress a little faster, we're going to move on or you're going to lose the support of the United States.' Well, under the framing of the president and his party, that would be tantamount to cutting and running."
Bush's rhetoric is undermining his threats. It's hard to get people abroad to believe you'll take your ball and bat and go home when you're telling voters in the US that you'll never leave 'as long as I'm President.'
To the rescue rides Jim Baker.
The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James Baker, the former US secretary of state, is preparing to report to President George W. Bush next month amid signs that sectarian violence and attacks on coalition forces in Iraq are spiralling out of control.
The conflict is claiming the lives of 100 civilians a day and bombings are at record levels.
The Baker commission has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Mr Baker calls "cutting and running" or "staying the course".
Except it's not. Partition fits Bush's definition of 'cut and run', since it's guaranteed to mean continuing war and an unstable Iraq -- or worse. Middle East analyst Juan Cole:
This is a very bad idea for so many reasons it would take me forever to list them all. But here are a few:1. no such loose federal arrangement would survive very long (remember the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States?), so the plan leads to the dismemberment and partition of Iraq. This outcome is unacceptable to Turkey and Saudi Arabia and therefore will likely lead to regional wars.
2. The Sunni Arabs, the Da`wa Party and the Sadr Movement are all against such a partition, and together they account for at least 123 members of the 275-member parliament. Some of the Shiite independents in the United Iraqi Alliance are also against it. I would say that a slight majority in parliament would fight this plan tooth and nail. The US cannot impose it by fiat.
3. The Sunni Arabs control Iraq's downstream water but have no petroleum resources. If the loose federal plan ends in partition, the situation is set up for a series of wars of the Sunni Arabs versus the Shiites, as well as of the Sunni Arabs and some Turkmen versus the Kurds. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia will certainly be pulled into these wars.
So it leads not only to civil wars -- notice, more than one -- but further destabilizes the region by causing other wars. In addition to Cole's reasons (and he admits there are more than he lists) is the fact that the regions are drawn along ethnic lines, pretty much guaranteeing coordinated campaigns of ethnic cleansing. These campaigns have been going on for some time now, but are underreported. By creating ethnic regions, ethnic cleansers will see their efforts as legitimized and will likely step up efforts -- especially in ethnically fueled civil wars.
The best possible outcome is to leave Iraq without making things worse than they already are. For all intents and purposes, the Iraq war has been over for quite some time. It's the continuing occupation that's the problem. We're accomplishing pretty much zero.
Bush told that audience in Alabama, "Some Democrats in Congress say we should not be fighting the terrorists in Iraq, it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place. I think these Democrats must answer a question. Do they really believe that we'd be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power?"
I'll answer that. It's pretty clear now that Saddam was no threat to the US and the occupation of Iraq is both a mess and a boondoggle -- so, yeah, we'd be better off. Likewise Iraq. Iraqis had one problem under Hussein -- an oppressive government. Now they have civil war, suicide bombers, a crumbling infrastructure, an occupation force that's frequently as dangerous as any militia, and -- for all intents and purposes -- no government. As it stands now, iraqi government is a purely diplomatic team, leaving Iraq in anarchy. In the 'making Iraq suck' business, Saddam was a piker.
Immediate withdrawal means civil war -- but Iraq is already in civil war and the US is powerless to stop it. Withdrawal means leaving Iraq a violent smoking hole.
But the Baker plan means civil war between three states, stepped up ethnic cleansing, war between Turkey and the khurds, war between the saudis and iraqi shiites, a desperate central government likely to be in alliance with Iran, worsening terrorism, and a smoking hole.
Bush and Baker are preparing to make things worse, just so they can claim we're not 'cutting and running'. Instead of 'cut and run', we get 'cover your ass'.
How cynical is that?
Technorati tags: politics; Iraq; war; terrorism; diplomacy; for Bush and James Baker, it's not cut and run if you leave as violent a civil war as possible behind you