Sunday, 15 June 2014

Recommended Reading: Leslie H. Gelb on Current Iraq Situation


Photo Source: Reuters/Daily Beast

I just wanted to draw your attention to this excellent piece by Leslie H. Gelb at The Daily Beast, “Iraq Is Vietnam 2.0 And U.S. Drones Won’t Solve The Problem”. Here are a couple of the best take-aways.

First, on the subject of newly resurgent violence and active insurgency groups in the country:

“When the jihadis took over the city of Mosul and began their march towards Baghdad, Washington was of course shocked. But officials, legislators, and policy experts in that fair city should not have been shocked. What happened in Iraq was history as usual. The U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and Vietnam and other places (maybe next in Syria), provides billions of dollars in arms, trains the friendly soldiers, then begins to pull out—and what happens? Our good allies on whom we’ve squandered our sacred lives and our wealth fall apart. That’s what’s happening in Iraq now.”

Second, on why the US should not re-intervene, and the inevitability of blame and recrimination from those the US is trying to “help”:

“before the U.S. government starts to do the next dumb thing again, namely provide fighter aircraft and drone attacks and heaven knows what else, it should stop and think for a change. If America comes to the rescue of this Iraqi government, then this Iraqi government, like so many of the others we’ve fought and died for, will do nothing. It will simply assume that we’ll take over, that we’ll do the job. And when things go wrong, and they certainly will, this cherished government that we’re helping will blame only America. Don’t think for a moment it will be otherwise. Don’t think for a moment that the generals and hawks who want to dispatch American fighters and drones to the rescue know any better today than they’ve known for 50 years.”

And, also, his rather bleak outlook for the two American wars in the Middle East and further afield:

“No amount of U.S. air and drone attacks will alter this situation. This kind of outcome was inevitable for Iraq given the political lay of the land in that country. It is almost certainly what’s going to happen in Afghanistan. There too, we’ve fought and died, equipped and trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops. The Kabul government is a corrupt mess not worth fighting for. There too, Americans should not be surprised if the Taliban soon regains the offensive and Afghan troops take off their uniforms, lay down their arms and run. Remember Vietnam? The South Vietnamese had a million and a half men under arms and despite the unconscionable Congressional cutoff of future aid, these armed forces had plenty to fight with. But they gave up too. And to be sure, the United States and friends are not providing a great deal of arms and equipment to friendly Syrian rebels. But then, the jihadis didn’t have much to fight with or many men to do the fighting and they seem to be doing all too well in Syria.”

And a caution to avoid (more) meddling and to leave it to the Iraqi people to address and solve this problem:

“Before the United States jumps off another cliff, let’s simply stop and take note of the bloody realities of more than fifty years. These internal civil wars, including the fights against these terrible extremists, are won and can only be won by the people Americans want to help—not by American troops, planes, drones, trainers, equipment and arms. And in the interest of a great majority of people in these countries who suffer from these wars, Washington owes it to them to try, just try, the diplomatic path of decentralization and federalism.”

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