This kind of cynicism deserves a special reward.
Mort Kondracke thinks he’s being sensible by coming up with a “Plan B” for the day that the surge proves itself to be a tactical success but a strategic failure. The plan is simple, elegant, immoral, and would condemn millions of people to slaughter and misery.
But hey! Who’s countin’ noses when we get our very own pet Shia running Iraq?
The 80 percent alternative involves accepting rule by Shiites and Kurds, allowing them to violently suppress Sunni resistance and making sure that Shiites friendly to the United States emerge victorious.
No one has publicly advocated this Plan B, and I know of only one Member of Congress who backs it – and he wants to stay anonymous. But he argues persuasively that it’s the best alternative available if Bush’s surge fails. Winning will be dirty because it will allow the Shiite-dominated Iraqi military and some Shiite militias to decimate the Sunni insurgency. There likely will be ethnic cleansing, atrocities against civilians and massive refugee flows.
On the other hand, as Bush’s critics point out, bloody civil war is the reality in Iraq right now. U.S. troops are standing in the middle of it and so far cannot stop either Shiites from killing Sunnis or Sunnis from killing Shiites.
Winning dirty would involve taking sides in the civil war – backing the Shiite-dominated elected government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and ensuring that he and his allies prevail over both the Sunni insurgency and his Shiite adversary Muqtada al-Sadr, who’s now Iran’s candidate to rule Iraq.
What’s a little ethnic cleansing among friends, eh Mort? Standing by while Sunnis are slaughtered is going to sit quite well with our friends in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the majority Sunni Gulf States.
The plan, of course, is as immoral as the Democrat’s current political gamesmanship which would accomplish exactly the same thing – Sunni slaughter – but would have the advantage of giving the US plausible deniability. (“How were we supposed to know that was going to happen?”) Kondracke doesn’t even pretend the murder of several hundred thousand people would come as a surprise. In fact, it’s part of his master plan.
And in the muddle that is Iraqi politics, it is unclear whether Mookie al-Sadr is, in fact, an “adversary” of Maliki at all. In some respects and on some issues, he is almost certainly an “ally.” And while a rival for power, as long as Ayatollah al-Sistani draws breath, the SCIRI will never allow the young upstart cleric to run much of anything in Iraq – even if he’s backed by Iran.
As for the rest of this tripe, is Kondracke sure this “anonymous” Congress critter wasn’t pulling his leg? I can’t imagine the US standing by watching as Shias herd Sunnis like cattle, whipping them toward the Saudi, Syrian, or Jordanian border. It would be the largest forced migration of people since the India-Pakistan partition in 1947. But that’s what a lot of the Shias who surround Maliki are all about – making Iraq a Sunni-free nation. It’s why the political benchmarks demanded of the Iraqi government by Congress will never be met. There is not the desire much less the political will among major Shia parties and personalities to unite the country.
Kondracke’s explanation is unconvincing:
Prudence calls for preparation of a Plan B. The withdrawal policy advocated by most Democrats virtually guarantees catastrophic ethnic cleansing – but without any guarantee that a government friendly to the United States would emerge. Almost certainly, Shiites will dominate Iraq because they outnumber Sunnis three to one. But the United States would get no credit for helping the Shiites win. In fact, America’s credibility would suffer because it abandoned its mission. And, there is no guarantee that al-Sadr – currently residing in Iran and resting his militias – would not emerge as the victor in a power struggle with al-Maliki’s Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
Iran formerly backed the SCIRI and its Badr Brigades but recently switched allegiances – foolishly, my Congressional source contends – to al-Sadr, who’s regarded by other Shiites as young, volatile and unreliable. Under a win dirty strategy, the United States would have to back al-Maliki and the Badr Brigades in their eventual showdown with al-Sadr. It also would have to help Jordan and Saudi Arabia care for a surge in Sunni refugees, possibly 1 million to 2 million joining an equal number who already have fled.
Sunnis will suffer under a winning dirty strategy, no question, but so far they’ve refused to accept that they’re a minority. They will have to do so eventually, one way or another. And, eventually, Iraq will achieve political equilibrium. Civil wars do end. The losers lose and have to knuckle under. As my Congressional source says, “every civil war is a political struggle. The center of this struggle is for control of the Shiite community. Wherever the Shiites go, is where Iraq will go. So, the quicker we back the winning side, the quicker the war ends. ... Winning dirty isn’t attractive, but it sure beats losing.”
Allah asks the tough questions that Kondracke shrivels from and lays out “we broke it, we’ve got to fix it” case for at least maintaining enough of a presence to forestall genocide:
We all understand the dilemma here: weâ€™re the only thing preventing a pogrom, but itâ€™s at a huge human cost to our own military. At what point does our responsibility to get our boys out of harmâ€™s way morally justify leaving a power vacuum within which Iraqi Arabs can slam away at each other? Weâ€™re not going to solve a Sunni/Shiite rift thatâ€™s existed for 1400 years so why waste any more American lives trying to postpone it? The answer, or my answer, in two words: Pam Hess. Itâ€™d be unconscionable for the United States to acquiesce in ethnic cleansing in a country whose security weâ€™ve taken responsibility for; if you believe some on the left (and right), itâ€™s unconscionable for us to acquiesce in ethnic cleansing even in countries whose security weâ€™re not responsible for, like Sudan. When we leave, we have to leave with a good faith belief that the two sides can co-exist, which is why political reconciliation within parliament is so important and why weâ€™re stuck there until it happens. If you take Kondracke seriously, the best solution might actually be to have the Air Force carpet-bomb Anbar: itâ€™d solve the problem instantly, weâ€™d get â€œcredit for helping the Shiites win,â€ and itâ€™d send a none-too-subtle message to Sadr that heâ€™d best not antagonize us in the future. It would also send the Sunni countries in the Middle East into a frenzy, of course, and would mean the destruction of a part of Iraq where the leadership is, increasingly, unabashedly on our side and has taken the lead in fighting Al Qaeda â€” but of course, Shiite ethnic cleansing would accomplish the same things.
Strangest of all, in what sense does Kondracke think â€œAmerican credibilityâ€ would be served by letting Sadr put the Sunnis to the sword? Weâ€™d be hearing about it from the left and the Islamists for the next thousand years. Al Qaeda would make it a centerpiece of their recruiting strategy. Even Iran, the ostensible beneficiaries, would demagogue the hell out of it with crocodile tears about their â€œSunni brothersâ€ whom the Sadrists had no choice but to fight after the U.S. goaded them into it.
Kondracke is wrong on so many levels it is beyond belief that he isn’t just throwing this out in order to initiate discussion about what next in Iraq.
And if he’s seriously considering what he wrote as an actual course of action for the United States, he should, as I suggest above, be sentenced to be dressed in Sunni garb and dropped smack in the middle of Sadr city.
Methinks his perspective on Shia ethnic cleansing would benefit by a little first hand experience with the process.