In recent days, neo-conservatives have hit the Obama Administration blaming the surge in Al-Qaeda violence on the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. By taking this hard line, the neo-cons have tacitly admitted that they intended for the US to be a permanent occupation force of a far flung country which has little impact on our national security.
Given the ethnic makeup of the Anbar Province, in a Democracy likely ruled by Iraq’s Shia’a majority, problems were always going to ensure in the area. The Sunni majority province, Iraq’s largest by land area was at least nominally more pro-Saddam Hussien than other areas of the country. Fallujah itself was the home to 40,000 Ba’ath party(Saddam Hussien’s party which is a secular party- Bashar Assad in Syria is also a Ba’ath Party member) operatives who were displaced by the US occupation. The policy makers in the Bush Administration did not foresee this or any number of other problems with the occupation and naively/idealistically undertook a massive effort at De-Ba’athification, dismantling the Iraqi Army and imposition of western styled institutions in a region that had little desire for this. The Bush Administration policy regarding the military and de-Ba’thification was largely the bi-product of Ahmed Chalibi, an Iraqi exile living in the Detroit area who had strong ties to Iran. Chalibi was also convicted of bank fraud in Jordan, yet maintained strong personal ties with leading Bush Administration officials throughout the planning, execution and immediate aftermath of the US Invasion of Iraq.
Between the ousting of Ba’ath party officials and the dismantling of the army you had lots of experienced bureaucrats and fighters available to challenge American and Sh’ia authority. From 2003 to 2007 the Bush Administration bumbled and stumbled around the issues related to Anbar, shedding American blood in a largely lost cause. Towards the end of the bloodiest period of the war Joe Biden co-wrote a thoughtful proposal, quite possibly the only intellectually honest idea about the long-term viability of Iraq’s governing post US Invasion offered by a senior United States politician.
Vice President Joe Biden on his views about Iraq in 2006 when he advocated partition of the country which he presented with Les Gelb, a senior foreign policy thinker. The plan stated the following:
First, the plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions. The central government would be left in charge of common interests, such as border security and the distribution of oil revenue
Second, it would bind the Sunnis to the deal by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue. Each group would have an incentive to maximize oil production, making oil the glue that binds the country together.
Third, the plan would create a massive jobs program while increasing reconstruction aid — especially from the oil-rich Gulf states — but tying it to the protection of minority rights.
Fourth, it would convene an international conference that would produce a regional nonaggression pact and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments
Fifth, it would begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, while maintaining a small follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of terrorists.
This plan would have saved the United States lives, people resources and money. It would also have made the lands that made up Iraq safer, more economically independent and livable. Keep in mind Iraq itself is a manufactured country having been formed by the British out of the former Turkish Province of Mesopotamia after World War 1. The British liberated Baghdad from the Turks in 1917 and within five years had created new administrative divisions and a completely new bureaucracy to govern the area.
With all of this in mind , it is a pity the very same neo-conservatives and Bushites that are attacking the administration today did not even consider this wise course of action in 2006. They had no plan and no policy suggestions other than to “win the peace in Iraq” whatever that meant. As recent events have demonstrated the Bush plan for Iraq was never sustainable.