Monday, August 27, 2007

Legitimacy in the Politics of Iraq

al-Maliki is apparently having a bird over the criticism from the US Dems. Probably should be, considering that many are calling for him to be ousted.
Iraq's beleaguered leader lashed out yesterday at Sen. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats seeking his ouster, saying they're treating Iraq like "one of their villages."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite leader increasingly under fire for failing to make political progress with his country's Sunnis and Kurds, also slammed the U.S. military for aggressive tactics against Shiites.

"There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin," he told reporters, referring to the New York senator and Levin, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "They should come to their senses."

I'm thinking the politicos in the US are dancing a bit over the line. They seem to forget that a mule tends to resist when forced and that tampering with a legitimately elected government has bad consequences. Max Boot speaks to the Vietnam comparison relating to the ousting of Diem and how the government of South Vietnam never really really recovered. (h/t geekWife)
The problem with Mr. Bush's Vietnam analogy is not that it is inaccurate, but that it is incomplete. As he noted, "The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech." If he chooses to return to the subject in future speeches, there are some other parallels he could invoke:

The danger of prematurely dumping allied leaders. A chorus of voices in Washington, led by Sens. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton, is calling on Iraqis to replace Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. Even Mr. Bush and his ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, have expressed disappointment with Mr. Maliki. They have been careful, however, to refrain from any calls for his ouster. That's wise, because we know from our experience in Vietnam the dangers of switching allied leaders in wartime.

In the early 1960s, American officials were frustrated with Ngo Dinh Diem, and in 1963 the Kennedy administration sanctioned a coup against him, in the hope of installing more effective leadership in Saigon. The result was the opposite: a succession of weak leaders who spent most of their time plotting to stay in power. In retrospect it's obvious that, for all his faults, we should have stuck with Diem.

Diem's government may have been corrupt, but the ones that followed were as bad and were never seen as legitimate due to the interference of the US. The Maliki government has legitimacy, for the main reason that he wasn't the guy that the US wanted. Politicos should be very careful in playing with the government of Iraq. They could easily make mistakes that end with a government that is much more resistant to the present stabilization work. al-Maliki does have to cry foul when he sees his majority interest being pushed on. The Shiite militias are a problem that he hasn't done much, at least successfully, to secure.

Back to the original article:
Clinton's office declined to respond to Maliki, but one of her Democratic rivals in the White House race, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" the prime minister shouldn't be worried about U.S. politicians.

"I think that Maliki should quit worrying about Democrats and the presidential campaign in America and start worrying about what he needs to do in his own country," he said.

Senator "Silky-Pony" Edwards may want to engage his brain before he opens his mouth. Part of the reason al-Maliki is pushing back is due to the US politicians questioning his viability. All that does is weaken his position to work with the minority groups who will start to view him as weak and likely to be replaced. Why would they then put in the effort to come to any terms with him? That directly effects his ability to deal in his own country.

I do find this a bit hard to take though:
Maliki also criticized U.S. soldiers, saying they kill too many innocents in the hunt for terrorists. He was responding to recent raids in which the U.S. military said it took out Shiite terrorists, but Iraqis said some were civilians.

"There were big mistakes committed in these operations," he said. "The terrorist himself should be targeted, not his family."

Right. The US is obviously a monster for taking out suicide bombers who are hiding among supporters in Iraq. Seeing that they benefit from any news that shows any civilian deaths at the hands of US forces, I doubt that the terrorists would ever allow themselves to be taken without peripheral deaths. Maliki obviously has missed the recent house bombs that the US forces have run into. They are intentionally placed to do major damage and cause collateral damage in the neighborhood. The Arab press obviously blame the US for any deaths even when they are likely to have been terrorists. The US can't win that side of the PR war, but they can be as careful as possible to ensure locals understand they aren't just destroying without care.

Read the Boot article. It's quite informative on the Vietnam comparison and where the US still hasn't quite got it right in Iraq.

Then there is the continued call for a change in strategy in Iraq and the prejudging of the results. Not that the present strategy has actually been given sufficient time to show enduring results, but hey, let's judge and shift before the paint has dried.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday he thinks there is a good chance that President Bush will take a new direction on Iraq following the status report next month from General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

Though McConnell said he would not like to prejudge the highly anticipated report on Iraq, but he added that “there’s a good chance that in September we’ll go in a different direction.”

The senator stressed that this would not mean “an arbitrary surrender date,” which is what he is accusing Democrats of trying to do.

“But I think it’s entirely possible that the president will lay out a strategy that takes us into a different place, which hopefully, at the end of the day, ends up with some American troops forward deployed in the Middle East at the end of this draw down that many of us are anticipating over a period of time,” he said on Fox News Sunday.

McConnell criticized Democrats for prejudging the outcome of the troop surge, which Bush set in motion at the beginning of the year, but he reserved his harshest words for the Iraqi government.
Why are these people so impatient? Not that there is any historical perspective to look at, but most insurgencies take time. But hey, the surge started seven months ago, let's just call it a failure and call for a change. The politicians of all colors are just pathetic on this one.
“But by any objective standard, any objective standard, the one thing that there is broad bipartisan agreement on in the United States Senate is that the Iraqi government has been a huge disappointment,” McConnell said. “All of the kind of political compromises that we were looking to them to make, they have not yet made. Maybe it's not too late, but it's time they get about it.”
By their own measure, this congress is more pathetic than the Iraqi government. The question really is, who are they to judge? They aren't the ones serving under threat of death from an insurgency. They aren't there trying to create stability in a sectarian and tribally fractured country. They may hold the strings to the purse that pays for the stability, but they also are in the US which is highly dependent on the Middle-East for energy and support of the world economy. I find it hard to listen to this type of criticism when this same congress can't seem to do anything of real value. And the US public agrees from the look of their poll numbers.

Politics is just so interesting. Or not.

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