Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Petraeus reads The Rubaiyat

David Seaton's News Links
On the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war, the commanding General David Petraeus went to Washington and argued before the US Congress against the promised withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

He bleakly refused to offer any timetable for resuming reductions or to estimate how many U.S. soldiers would be in Iraq by year's end. "We haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel; the champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator," he said. "And the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible."

Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times:
The Maliki debacle in Basra, (...) made it stunningly clear — after a cease-fire was brokered in Iran — that we’re spending $3 trillion as our own economy goes off a cliff so that Iran can have a dysfunctional little friend.
And David Ignatius in the Washington Post:
Iran's covert campaign to reshape Iraq has been clear since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Iranian intelligence officers prepared lists of Iraqis for assassination in the weeks and months after the war began; they sent Iranian-trained mullahs to take over the Shiite mosques of central and southern Iraq that had been smashed by Saddam Hussein; they pumped an estimated $12 million a week in covert financial support to their allies as the January 2005 election approached; they infiltrated all the major Shiite political parties, and many of the Sunni ones, too.

The Iranians have fixed the political game. They are on all sides at once. They have links to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Dawa party; they funnel money to the Badr organization of Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, which is a key recruiting ground for the Iraqi army; they provide weapons, training and command and control for the most extreme factions of the Mahdi Army. Moqtada al-Sadr, the Mahdi Army's nominal leader, is actually living in the Iranian holy city of Qom, suffering from what intelligence sources believe may be clinical depression. A useful ploy would be to invite him to come home and see if he can be drawn into negotiations.

The Iranians were able to start the recent trouble in Basra and Baghdad through one set of operatives, then negotiate a cease-fire through another. In short, they play the Iraqi lyre on all its strings.

Fighting a war against Iran is a bad idea. But fighting a proxy war against it in Iraq, where many of our key allies are manipulated by Iranian networks of influence, may be even worse.
How can the United State extricate itself from this tar baby?

Michael Goodwin wrote in the New York Daily News:
After watching hours of the dreary Senate hearings on Iraq on Tuesday, I have only one remaining question: Why would anybody want to be the next President of the United States?

There is no clear way forward or out of Iraq. Beyond changes on the margins - forcing the Iraqi government to pay more reconstruction costs, for example - the most likely prospect is more of the same slog in the hopes Iraqis eventually will build for themselves the country we are unable to build for them.

I say that despite knowing that Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have promised to withdraw our troops within a year or so, no matter the ground conditions. I don't believe it's a promise they can keep.

Obama admitted as much on Tuesday by creating big-time wiggle room for himself. He told Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker that everybody wants a "successful resolution" and that nobody was demanding a "precipitous withdrawal" of our troops. He also seemed to be seeking a way of defining limited victory rather than sticking with his vow of a rapid retreat.

It was a grownup moment for him, one that reflects the stubborn reality of Iraq. As bad as it is, and it is disastrously bad, it could get far worse if we suddenly pull the plug on our role.

Obama and Clinton had been ducking that issue in their primary battle, but ducking will not be an option in the general election or in the Oval Office. Faced with the prospect of an all-out civil war, maybe genocide and almost certainly a failed state taken over by Islamic fundamentalists or Iran, the next President will be forced to fight in some fashion.
At this moment numerous observers are predicting that the United States will attack Iran in the near future and that Israel will use the ensuing confusion to simultaneously attack Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. At that point you might be able to double the value of your automobile by filling the gas tank.

Much has been made of the scars left on the American psyche by the war in Vietnam, but I think a quite a bit of that was self pity at having lost a war for the first time: of being "losers".

There was much self-dramatization involved in both those who were against the war in Vietnam and those who were for it. To some extent the obscenity and the needlessness of Vietnam cut through the overstimulated banality of everyday American life. A hint of reality. For many of us defeat in Vietnam was just another of the drugs my generation experimented with.

The United States had stumbled, but the momentum of the cold war gave an ideological cover and sense to Vietnam's senselessness. At the same time the war in Vietnam itself and the consequences of losing it had little or no effect on American's standard of living and that standard of living has become the essence of America's being: wealth is America's mystical body. Vietnam didn't touch that.

Iraq is different. If wealth is America's mystical body, gasoline is its holy spirit.

There is in the war in Iraq something of the inevitable, the inescapable; of winning the lottery in reverse: something old and dead and clinging that is deeply foreign to the American genius.

One of the most attractive traits of the American character is its belief that it is possible to rewind life and erase the past; a belief in the endless possibilities of new beginnings.

However, before committing ground troops to the Middle East, perhaps someone in the White House should have read the classic Persian poet, Omar Khayyam, who wrote in The Rubaiyat
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it
A more un-American sentiment is hard to imagine. Muslims are always being accused of being fatalistic... Go to their world and learn why. DS


RC said...

Thanks for some insights about the Iranian involvement. I'll have to study the recent Iran Iraq interaction more closely and this post was a good starting point. I'll also have to go back to the long Iran Iraq War and review the dynamics of that one to see how they led to where we are now. Any clues on a good source that connects the dots of the two eras?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Robert Fisk's, "The Great War for Civilization"