Monday, April 19, 2004

The Best, Worst Case Scenario for Iraq

This posting by liberal blogger Matt Yglesias comes pretty close to my current opinion of the Iraq venture. The war would have been justifiable if done by a more competent and ethical American leadership, according to Matt, but predictably awful results have come out of the Bush administration. Matt concludes he was wrong to have supported the war.

Personally, I had a lot of hesitation about the war and especially about Bush, but after my experience in Burma I would not lightly pass up the chance to throw out an entrenched dictatorship. I never went as far as Matt in supporting the war, and as an unimportant private citizen I kept my option of not making up my mind. Funny enough, I still haven't made up my mind, but I'm leaning towards Matt's view. I do think my anti-war friends should note that Iraqis may not agree with them, however. A BBC poll of Iraqis last month found that more Iraqis think the invasion was right than wrong. What Iraqis think now may be another question. What they will think in January when we hopefully have a competent president is even less promising. This isn't an easy issue.

Pulling out immediately like the far left wants would be disastrous. The UN will not march in without heavy military support, and it won't get that support from anyone else if the US cuts and runs. If the US had provided military support under UN authority from the beginning, that might have made a huge difference to Iraqis and to other nations that could have provided support. I'm no longer certain that this solution will still work in 2005 under a Kerry presidency (or a Bush presidency when he gets truly desperate). It might not work for the simple reason that the UN won't accept this radioactively hot potato being handed to them. What then?

Our choices would be to stay in an increasingly hostile quagmire, or get the hell out. Of the two, the latter is better, but the best, worst case scenario then means partition of Iraq. The result would likely be a semi-democratic, authoritarian Kurdistan in the north (hopefully without a civil war between the two main Kurdish parties); a semi-democratic theocracy in the Shiite south, and a Somalia-like state of anarchy in the Sunni center. Hardly cheering, but it may be the best we can get.

Last thought - I'm not sure this worst case scenario is really worse than a continuation of the Saddam regime. So I continue to sit on the fence.

UPDATE: A new poll of Iraqis has come out. From CNN: Asked about the planned June 30 transfer of power from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to a transitional government, 58 percent favored a caretaker panel chosen by the United Nations, while 20 percent said it should go to the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

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