Divide and conquer
By William Gruver
At least partly as a result of our bold intervention in the Middle East, Libya has renounced its nuclear weapons program, Lebanon has forced its Syrian occupiers to leave and even authoritarian regimes (like Egypt) that are the source of the discontent that breeds apocalyptic terrorism have taken small steps toward democratization. Most importantly, the unintended (or undisclosed) benefit of our intervention in Iraq has been the absence of another major terrorist attack within our borders.
Our presence in Iraq has become the enemy's focal point in its war against the infidels of the West. Diverting and distracting, using force multiplying tactics espoused by Sun Tzu, and taking the fight to the enemy's neighborhoods have kept ours safe. Sun Tzu also advised disrupting an enemy's alliances, and in Iraq, we now have Islam fighting with itself as much as or more than it is fighting with us. These bright spots are not pretty and might not have been our original intentions, but they are positives.
What then should be done in Iraq today? The president is ordering more ground troops to be deployed to Iraq in order to pacify Baghdad. His logic, with which I agree, is that we cannot reach a political solution in a country when the capital of the country is bordering on chaos.
Rule of thumb
Are 20,000 troops sufficient to accomplish the mission? I regret that the answer is no. The rule of thumb in counterinsurgency operations is one soldier or policeman for every 40 to 50 residents. In a city of 6 million like Baghdad, that would mean 150,000 troops. With approximately 15,000 troops already in Baghdad, the additional 20,000 troops do not come close to the required force level. Even if Iraqi troops and American private contractors are added into the number, we will not get close to the 150,000 that military doctrine says is necessary for victory.
Furthermore, Baghdad is no longer just an insurgency; nor is it a true civil war. There are so many warring factions within Baghdad that it very well could be past the tipping point into a Hobbesian nightmare. Separating and quieting so many combatants would require even more troops. Why hasn't the president ordered more troops into Baghdad? The short answer is there are no more that are ready for combat.
If the surge with the available troops will not work, what, then, are our options? Only the president's most strident critics recommend immediate withdrawal. Leaving the best chance for reform in the Middle East solely to Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Syria is at best irresponsible. The Iraqi government says it wants unity, but its inability to tame militias on either side tells another story.
Actions signal division
Actions speak louder than words, and if their actions are signaling division, why do we stand in the way of the Iraqis dividing? After all, Iraq as we know it was an artificial construct by the British following the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire after World War I. Living under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein merely camouflaged the underlying tribal society.
The present Iraqi constitution envisions a three-part federal system with a unifying central government. The only amendment necessary to the current constitution would be to strengthen the three sectors (Kurd north, Shia south and Sunni central) and leave the central government's main responsibility the division of the oil revenue. Four years ago, the multiethnic neighborhoods of Baghdad would have been a major impediment to such a division of Iraq. Unfortunately, the slaughter of the last six months is close to resolving this roadblock.
We already have tribal warlords with their own militias serving as more effective police than the government's version. Abandon the concept of an Iraqi army and leave each region to police and defend itself. In this scenario, the American and British troops, after escorting any remaining ethnic evacuees to sanctuaries within their new zones, would be responsible only for border security (between the three ethnic havens within Iraq and on the external borders with Turkey, Iran and Syria to prevent meddling).
The division of the oil revenue would be determined by a base formula (giving a guaranteed percentage to each of the three regions) with a bonus pool available for any region that achieved metrics tied to the level of violence and the provision of basic services (electric, water, sanitation) within its sector.
As the British accomplished with colonial India in 1947 by creating an Islamic Pakistan and a Hindu India or as NATO did in Bosnia in 1996, such separations fall far short of the utopian, multiethnic, democratic ideal of Mahatma Gandhi, Woodrow Wilson or George W. Bush, but for now it is the best we can do.