Saturday, November 04, 2006

Peters Out and Dies

Ralph Peters has given up on the war in Iraq. He had been a war proponent, but not too long ago he started talking about how the "natural" map of the Middle East has been abused by history. He aroused a great deal of discontent among friends and enemies alike by publishing, in the Armed Forces Journal no less, his preferred map, which divides everything along cultural, ethnic and religious lines. By this defeatist insight, he may have actually made himself the person most responsible for pushing us past the tipping point in Iraq, and now he wants out.

The promotion of a sanctity concept regarding national borders has made the enforcement of non-aggression possible since the end of World War II. Certainly, it allowed us to intervene in Kuwait when Saddam tried to gobble it up, but most of the time it served by establishing the rules of the game. In Iraq that rule was serving us well to keep the neighbors at bay, protecting Kurdistan in particular. Peters' proposal was taken as a message from the Bush administration most importantly in Turkey and Iran, and it may have put our only current success at risk. Oh, well. Easy come, easy go.

Peters' new idea is to put all of our efforts into supporting the Iraqi Army, which has been a relative success, rather than the IP, which has been a disaster. Then ... we sit back and hope for a military coup. I agree, with only the first part of course, on the principle that you should always feed your successes. I would go further and encourage the Kurds to expand their influence southward, bringing their liberal disposition along with them, and to bring in Kurdish population from Turkey and Iran where they are discriminated against, to help challenge the growing Shia hegemony. Maybe then the Sunni and Shia Arabs will be persuaded to realize how much they have to lose. We want these people to work together, and it is more than possible for that to happen (see Frank Warner discussion on diversity). We just have to take the necessary steps. Who would have predicted twenty years ago that there could ever be peace in Northern Ireland? The Iraqis are no more addicted to violence than the IRA was.

It seems, however, that many Americans, in addition to Ralph Peters, have given up in Iraq. There is an air of defeatism and a dramatic Democratic victory will be taken as confirmation that we are going to throw in the towel. (Which aggravates me greatly, since I am a Democrat.)

First of all, when you read that someone who used to support the war has had a change of heart, remember than anyone can make such a claim. Check the source, and look up the word "shill" in your dictionary. Not that Peters is in that category, but I have seen some interesting see-the-light posts. Second, remember that the true reasons for invading Iraq were strategic. Third, ask yourself what we will do when we pull out. If we throw in the towel, where exactly are we going to throw it in to?

What becomes of Lebanon? For that matter, what will become of Israel? How will we keep the Soviets ... oops ... the Russians and the Chinese from asserting their influence over the area. People think it doesn't matter much, but what to you think Russia and China will do with their newfound power and influence? Putin certainly didn't seem concerned last year whether the people of Europe had heat for the winter. He wanted to send a message to the wayward people of the Orange Revolution by cutting off gas supplies. I hope the message was received somewhat beyond that target.

Whether we have been in Iraq to grab the oil or not, it is hard to believe that our competitors would be any less acquisitive. Most likely a power vacuum will lead to a whole series of disasters -- starting with a bloodbath in Baghdad, ending perhaps with another genocide, much as our absence from Indochina allowed the genocide in Cambodia to proceed. Our leverage on Iran will evaporate. Our ability to defend the Straits of Hormuz will deteriorate, to say nothing of the plight of women in that part of the world. And Africa. Think what will happen when the unimpeded children of the Prophet (subset Wahabi) sweep across that continent, flush with oil money and full of religious wrath. Is it paranoid to think that Darfur is but a warm-up? Chad is already under attack by the Janjaweed militia. Will the African Union stand against them? Perhaps a contingent from Europe could be persuaded?

Force and fear is a necessary part of world politics, and will be until the world resembles the West. It's not that we would lack the power to deal with a deteriorating situation, but the crux of the problem is that retreat can become habitual.

11/4/2006 1:13 AM

Frank Warner has a different interpretation of Peters' approach.

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