advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Thursday, January 25, 2007

On Not Losing, Or, Pull Out Now-To Afghanistan

In a previous discussion I created a hypothetical set 3 months in the future, and asked the community how we might respond.

Today I’d like to do something similar, but with a predetermined outcome.

But before I do, let’s talk about that outcome.

There are a bunch of reasons to remain engaged in the Mideast neighborhood, and a bunch of reasons not to be in Iraq.

For those still evaluating the issues, consider the following:

Precipitous withdrawal will create a power vacuum, and there will be a fight-unless the Sunni decide to accept what appears to be a future of poverty and no political power.

Of course, al-Sadr will also have to accept being at the bottom of the economic pile while bearing no animosity to the wealthy Shi’a keeping him there, and all Shi’a will have to accept that 35 years of mistreatment from the Sunni deserve no retaliation.

What about the Kurds?
Saudi Arabia?
Do you own that much Tylenol?

If we race home, our image as a reliable partner will once again be tarnished, although, ironically, our perception as an “honest broker” might actually improve, if we were not seen as providing backing for one faction or another.

In the meantime, spring draws ever nearer, which means trouble ahead in Afghanistan. Fighters coming down from the Northeast mountain provinces and Pakistan will create more trouble for the multinational force in country.

What might happen in a withdrawal scenario? Most likely is the pullback of US forces to bases in Iraq, and a basically defensive posture. At the same time, some (half?) of US forces will likely withdraw back home, particularly National Guard units.

Of course, this won’t last long (the best fortress is a prison theory, and who wants to sit around taking inbound mortars?), suggesting that this solution will also lead us right back where we are now, US troops trying to put out fires as they break out, especially in Baghdad.

So how can we create the appearance of impartiality and strength, stay militarily engaged, and deal with the coming Afghani spring offensive?

I suggest, instead of withdrawing to defensive positions in Iraq, we withdraw to offensive positions in Afghanistan, while maintaining a backup force to discourage outside intervention.

You bet.

All this will only work if we can...

...Convince the surrounding nations that stability in Iraq serves everybody’s best interests, and…

…Convince the population of Iraq that stability in Iraq serves everybody’s best interests.

Neither one an easy proposition.

Diplomatic efforts must begin immediately and must be perceived as militarily neutral, as opposed to militarily offensive.

There should be four objectives: to convince Iran not to involve themselves internally (bribery is an option here), to assure the Kurds that we will allow them to defend their interests as needed, to find a way to create economic opportunity amongst the al-Sadr supporters, and to reassure Sunni Islam that Iraqi Sunnis will not be marginalized, if we can help it.

Possible positive outcomes?
Here’s a few:

Diplomacy creates an interest in Iran in a more expansive economic relationship, which helps us maintain parity with China in securing access to traditional energy resources over the next few decades.

Why would Iran be interested? Because they have a younger generation, too, and a future of war and sanctions will not give them much to do, creating internal instability the Iranian Government would probably rather avoid.

A similar analysis could be made regarding Syria.

The Royal Saudi Government has much to gain from stability, and even more to gain from the perception that the US is not an enemy of the Sunni.

Our allies in Afghanistan get assistance they could really use, at the most active time of the combat year, if recent history repeats itself.

All of this reinforces the perception that the US does have the patience to stay around for the long haul.

It also leaves the factions in Iraq having to decide how to reconcile without us taking sides in daily combat-unless all sides choose all-out warfare, which we may not be able to contain under any conditions, including the status quo.

So that’s my conversation about what to do.

Now here’s my question-how do we do it?

Specifically, where can we start moving troops, and to whom should we reach out to first diplomatically?

No comments: