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Feb 16

Written by: Diana West
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 6:06 AM 

Haven't read Rumsfeld's book, but I did read a rebuttal by Dan Senor and Roman Martinez in the Wash Post this week in which they argue over what went wrong in Iraq. Rummy says it was poor planning in a too-long CPA-led aftermath; they say it was Rummy's failure to send enough troops. They further contend that Rumsfeld supported the CPA's policy at the time, citing internal docs to prove it.

But this whole argument seems completely beside the point, whizzing right by anything meaningful or significant about the disastrous policy the Bush administration executed in Iraq. I refer to the cocoon of ignorance about Islam that our government and military were (and are) operating from in attempting to nation-build our way out of the umma, first in Iraq and now Afghanistan.

But there's something else to note in the Senor-Martinez piece. The rebuttal crescendos here:

Rumsfeld now argues that a speedy handover to a sovereign Iraqi government would have prevented the (largely Sunni) insurgency from taking hold.

But a sovereign Iraqi government established in the spring or summer of 2003 would have empowered the Shiite leaders of the Iraqi opposition movement in exile before the war (most notably, Ahmed Chalabi and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Republic of Iraq). Chalabi has said that such a government would have invited the radical and violent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to become a member. These figures unflinchingly advocated policies such as aggressive de-Baathification and the use of sectarian Shiite militia groups that antagonized Sunnis after Hussein's fall.

Um, but isn't that roughly what happened anyway? Chalabi is out (and good riddance) but the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, now known as Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is a major player in the government, while Prime Minister Maliki is himself a Shiite alumnus of the Iraqi opposition movement in Iranian and Syrian exile as a former leader of the Dawa Party. As for the Iranian-homing Moqtada al Sadr, his political party is a lynchpin of the current governmen, with 8 of 29 cabinet positions.

But Senor and Martinez seems to have missed these headlines.

A government led by these figures would have deeply alienated Sunnis, who harbored fears about the Shiite exile leadership, its ties to neighboring Iran and its desire for payback after decades of dictatorship. 

Would have? 

It likely would have made the Sunni insurgency worse.

Not exactly a radical difference in outcome. They continue:

Without basic security for ordinary Iraqis, it was extraordinarily difficult to achieve lasting progress in Iraq --

Is "lasting progress" what we achieved?

-- especially with respect to a political transition that required negotiation and compromise among competing factions. Establishing public safety was what we failed to do during Rumsfeld's tenure. Only after he resigned and President Bush deployed more troops and a traditional counterinsurgency approach did things begin to turn around.

Sorry. "Things" didn't "turn around." "Things" paused. With more cops on the beat -- "the surge" -- crime (sectarian violence) went down. Paying bad guys on the US-taxpayer-funded protection money ("Sunni Awakening" is so much more poetic)  helped. The egghead theory, however -- the "traditional counterinsurgency approach,"  the rubbish of winning hearts and minds -- was a complete and abysmal failure.

So why have taken COIN on the road to Afghanistan? Because there has been no reckoning, no interest even in such a reckoning by any of our elected representatives, on the performance of COIN doctrine over the last decade. No one wants to ask what went wrong in Iraq. And so it will go wrong all over again in Afghanistan.

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