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No Graceful Exit

James Fearon, in the Mar-Apr Foreign Affairs issue, provides a cogent and realistic assessment of options. His wisdom underlies this page. See Full Article, and James Fearon for more on this remarkable man.

In his TV phrase, "I am a war president," Mr Bush declared an unvarnished truth. In other unvarnished and truthful statements, the Bush Administration vowed to remake the Middle East, and indeed he has. His remarkable achievements include:

  • Enabling Iran's thrust into regional leadership with potential for nuclear supremacy;
  • Transforming Iraq into warlordism and civil war;
  • Humiliating Israel in Lebanon;
  • Enabling the ascendance of Islamic parties;
  • Making Al Qa'ida more resilient than ever; and
  • Pushing the entire Middle East to the brink of chaos.

Some of these are the very reasons George Bush Sr. stopped short of toppling Hussein during the Gulf War. The second bullet is our main concern on this page.

Each civil war has its own character, its own flavor, its supporters, and its deniers. The Bush Administration is among the last, at least on Iraq. Nevertheless, the world is home to some 20 civil wars currently in progress. As the World's second largest owner of petroleum reserves, Iraq is of special interest, at least economically, to all the nations on earth.

Civil war histories have some important lessons:

  • "...Rural guerrilla warfare can be an extremely robust tactic, allowing relatively small numbers of rebels to gain partial control of a large amount of territory for years despite expensive and brutal military campaigns against them." And, of course, Iraq has about a score of rebel groups already joining the fight.
  • Civil wars rarely end in stable power-sharing agreements. When it has happened, it was the result of a stalemate in the power struggle between two coherent factions who realized reconciliation as the only resolution possible. Power sharing has historically come about only after extended periods of fruitless war. Power sharing only holds when each side is relatively cohesive, cohesive enough to control its own troops. Neither condition is present in Iraq.
  • Military coups can win the day--if they are coherent. Of course this eventuality in Iraq would simply revert to the "Hussein" state of affairs.

There is now no graceful way out. But by reducing troop levels and rebuilding relationships we can minimize the extended pain in all directions. The Iraq Study Group had this point right: "...Washington should be setting up diplomatic mechanisms for such eventualities, sooner rather than later."

By listening to the "America-First" Neocon litany, Mr Bush has worked himself and this great nation into a corner. The Sunni / Shia divide is over a millennia long; what we see is merely the latest round. Mr. Bush has simply poured more coal onto this ever-simmering fire. In the process, Mr. Bush has also:

  • alienated friend and neighbor alike;
  • polarized much of the world, especially the Middle East; and
  • plunged America so deeply into debt, it may go, prematurely, the way of Rome. In 2006 alone, the US borrowed $850 billion from other countries. That is some $200 per month for every American for just 2006!! It can only get worse over the near term, not better.

Mr. Bush has remade the Middle East all right, but his legacy will be that of just another failed conqueror in the chronicles of history.

Mr. Bush's prime achievement? Altering the world balance of power.

To research these issues further see: War & Iraq.


To be sure, Hussein was of the same cloth as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Amin. Yes he deserved toppling. Our problem is: What have we replaced him with and at what cost? More fundamentally, how did we get into such a mess? What is wrong in a society that allows a replay as hopeless as Vietnam where only the venue has changed? Both Johnson and Bush had a lot of help. [Ed.]

Posted by RoadToPeace on Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 10:51:32

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