Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rethinking Iraq

Recently in Newsweek (November 6 cover "We're losing, but all isn't lost.", Fareed Zakaria wrote an excellent and balanced view of Irag with recommendations for a way forward. Frankly, I'm tired of simplistic pronouncements on "Bush's War", from both Bush critics and some supporters. Critics blindly overlook the stark realities of the Saddam era, saying we should leave now and never should have been there in the first place. Some supporters, and Bush himself, overlook the stark realities of the escalated Sunni/Shiite sectarian hatred and violence (and the fact that much fighting is largely not a jihadist crusade but a Sunni struggle for control of the country) and its impact on uniting a democratic Iraq. Zakaria gives a more realistic picture and suggests a more balanced solution.

Democracy in Iraq--although I believe it still has a fighting chance--is not winning. Zakaria says we must "reduce and deploy our troops and nudge Iraqis toward a deal" in order to avoid total loss and get a "gray" outcome. In laying out the bad and the ugly, he doesn't overlook the good: a free Kurdish north and democratic free elections. One point he hits home is the critical fact that "the way out of this stalemate is not to pack up and go home. That will surely result in a bloodbath or worse."

One element missing from Zakaria's analysis is the need for forgiveness in Iraqi society. Without it, there is little hope. Shiites are venting after years of Sunni control and oppression, and Sunnis are retaliating trying to regain control. Shortly after Zakaria's article (and Saddam's hanging sentence), the largely Shia-controlled government finally made an effort to reign in Shiite death squads that attack Sunnis and then offered Sunnis their old government jobs from the Saddam era--a huge concession. Steps to reconcile and forgive like this will do more than any military solution. And as Zakaria said, with a Shia and Sunni agreement, Al Qaeda would be marginalized in the country.

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