A thought on a question

Jon from Dawnsinger posted a question about my posting on the Sadr situation in Iraq, regarding what I saw as a possible solution. My response ended up being lengthier than I thought it would be, and I’d be curious as to what other people think. Since I’m not sure everyone reads the comments, I’m posting separately.

Good question. I won’t do a hindsight analysis, i.e. what should have been done. The situation we have now is too pressing to let the public debate devolve into finger pointing, but I hope somewhere the historical analyses are being made to avoid future such mistakes.
The first step seems to be to cease operations in Fallujah for a bit; don’t keep hitting the hornet’s nest, especially when it appears we are undermanned there. (My aggregator just came up with a headline saying that is in fact what we are doing. Maybe I’m not so ill-informed after all.) Fallujah is a Sunni stronghold and has been opposed to us from day 1. Don’t write it off, but realize brute force is not going to get us what we need there.

Maintain operations in Najaf, which is critical to the Shi’ah. However, you need to tie in the propaganda machine. Don’t play up Shi’ah-Sunni differences as it will only create problems later. Rather, play up the fact that Najaf is terribly important historically, and the damage that could be done would be immesurable. Make it clear the US doesn’t want to fight and if the Najaf community would help stop hostilities, the US would like to help build up the heritage of Imam Ali. Concurrently make nice with Sistani. Have him start saying the same things in Najaf – stop hostilities, build up the history, etc. – and all of sudden you’ve bought back a major ally, and subverted the moral, if not practical, support of Fallujah and as-Sadr.

That would be my immediate band-aid.

As to the government’s knowledge, I’ve never been convinced before as I am now that ideology has supplanted policy in this administration. I’m sure at some point there were people who knew what was going on in Iraq, but they’ve been ignored, demoted or forced out because of the frustration level.

4 thoughts on “A thought on a question

  1. Frankly, I don’t know what to think about your proposed next steps. From a logical strategy, they seem reasonable, but the situation is so intertwined and explosive that I’m not sure anything will work. I’m long past thinking that the U.S. can salvage a positive outcome on the PR side, and I’m even beginning to wonder if we can make things better from a realistic point of view on the ground. Not enough troops . . . not enough cooperation . . . not enough thinking . . . and nothing says we’re bringing in democracy like shutting down and opposition newspaper. Ugh!

  2. At least one person thinks things aren’t so bad and we might be doing the right thing, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Even if it was, I don’t really believe that intelligent decisions will outweigh the ideology that seems to drive this administration.

  3. I feel somewhat vindicated having read the two op-eds in yesterday’s NY Times, the one you mention by Brooks, and the other by Nakash. Putting the two of them together you get a similar suggestion to what I had, but with much more detail. Today Juan Cole is reporting the ostensible reason there was a cease-fire from as-Sadr’s side was that it had been 40 days since the death of Imam Husayn (Arba’in), a period of religious significance.

  4. From the op-ed by Nakash – I didn’t realize Sistani had that much clout. If his influence is in fact that strong, then double-phooey on us for be so simplistic and foolish in our interactions with Sadr.

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