Not Saussure

October 23, 2006

Iraq again — is Beckett or the Americans talking more rubbish?

Filed under: hubris, Iraq, nemesis — notsaussure @ 8:29 pm

Not sure where to start with this.   First, Margaret Beckett tells us,

there would be no "rash" deadlines [for a British withdrawal], adding that the UK would only leave once the Iraqi government could "cope".

No one, or at least no one sane, is suggesting announcing a deadline, rash or not.   However, the alternative isn’t giving an open-ended commitment, for it would have to be open-ended, to staying there until  the Iraqis ‘can cope’.   Taken literally, that means we could be there for decades.   And, in any case, it’s not our decision; we’re hardly going to stick around after the Americans leave, after all, whether the Iraqis are coping or not.   Certainly, they don’t look like being able to cope much in the near future, which rather raises the question of why, since we haven’t been able to make a deal of progress in training their army and police over the last three years, we should expect to make much more over the next three.  Or six.  Or however long it might take.

What, I think, her statement means is that we and the Americans will leave Iraq as soon as someone’s managed to cobble together an administration, which would have to have the support of at least two members of the Axis of Evil (I don’t think North Korea’s views count for much in this, but Iran’s and Syria’s certainly do), that didn’t look like collapsing before we and the Americans managed to get our troops out the way before the inevitable happens and the place explodes into a full-blown civil war.   And even that might be over-optimistic.

Meanwhile, I see that yesterday

it was reported that America is considering punishing Baghdad if it fails to meet deadlines to stop the violence

What on earth, I wondered, could the Americans be thinking of doing to the poor, long-suffering Iraqis that they haven’t done already?   Impose sanctions?   Bomb them?  Invade them?   Nuking the place or using other weapons of mass destruction would solve the problem once and for all, I suppose, but  that’s going a bit far, surely?


benchmarks would be set covering progress in the Iraqi military, police and economy that if missed would result in the imposition of "penalties" by Washington.

These would include "changes in military strategy", which could mean troop cuts or redeployment within Iraq, or the removal of ministers deemed incompetent or corrupt.

This boggles the mind.   One would have hoped that troop levels and deployment were determined by a combination of what you were trying to achieve and military necessity rather than as means of punishing the Iraqi government for failing to meet performance targets — ‘if you don’t perform well enough, we’ll let the insurgents keep Al Amara; that’ll jolly well   show you!’  

 And as to removing ministers… well, assuming they don’t propose to assassinate them (always a possibility) isn’t that a bit problematic?   I mean, weren’t we all supposed to be  rejoicing, at the beginning of the year,  that the Iraqis had now taken control of their own affairs, held democratic elections and formed a government of national unity after a great deal of horse trading?   I’m not at all sure that the Iraqis’ new constitution provides for the US to sack their ministers and nor am I at all sure — given the problems they had forming a government in the first place — that it would be that easy to find anyone to take his place.

Maybe it’s hinting at what I suggested — if and when things get too bad, the US will, in effect, engineer some sort of coup, announce it’s a democratic unity government really, and then hope the Iranians and Syrians (particularly the Iranians) give them time to get out before it all goes spectacularly to bits.

I don’t know if Mrs Beckett ever plays chess in her caravan — somehow I don’t see President Bush as a chess player, and I think we’ve all guessed Mr Blair’s game long ago — but there’s a position in chess you never want to be in known as zugzwang, where whatever move you make puts you at a disadvantage.   That’s where, I fear, we’re at.  And it was one in which so many people warned we’d inevitably find ourselves when first we embarked on this Iraqi adventure.

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