Ivan Eland: The American media continues to tout the reduced violence in Iraq without foreseeing the long-term potential for a resumption of severe ethno-sectarian violence and the absence of mechanisms—à la Sudan—to defuse it.
Ivan Eland: With the justified firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his replacement with Iraq water-walker David Petraeus, it’s as if people are hoping for a second coming of Jesus in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the replacement may be similar to the second coming of the water-walking Joe Gibbs as coach of the Washington Redskins.
Ivan Eland: Unfortunately for the United States in Afghanistan, however, the label of “foreign occupier” is an albatross the U.S. will likely never be able to shake or mitigate. Although the Taliban is often brutal (but may now be toning this down in its own realization that it must win greater public support) and unpopular, so is the U.S. occupation and the corrupt client government of Hamid Karzai.
Ivan Eland: So far, Iraq has been quiet enough that many in the media and public have redirected their attention to the wars du jour of Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The relative peace (punctuated by an occasional violent attack) in Iraq may be about to evaporate and cause yet another crisis for the president.
Trying to recreate Iraq’s multicultural ethno-sectarian mosaic after intense civil strife is an appealing idea, but the history of ethno-sectarian conflict shows it to be dangerous.
General David Petraeus, the former military commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and author of the military’s most recent counterinsurgency manual, learned the lessons of the successful British counterinsurgency experience in Malaya in the 1950s. He was able to reduce the violence in Iraq by instituting a policy of U.S. military restraint in that country.
There is an “Alice-in-Wonderland” quality to the current debate on Iraq. As the war became increasingly unpopular after 2003, the Bush administration took to arguing that we couldn’t leave because it wasn’t going well. We had a duty to hang in there and give the Iraqis a chance to get on their feet. Those of […]