World View: Western Countries Struggle with Whether to Send Troops to Iraq
- Western countries struggle with whether to send troops to Iraq
- Iraq is repeating the events of the 1930s
Western countries struggle with whether to send troops to Iraq
The Obama administration flip-flopped on Wednesday on whether to send
troops to Mount Sinjar in Iraq to save tens of thousands of members of
the ancient Yadizi sect, who have been trapped there by terrorist
militias from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria/Sham/theLevant (ISIS
or ISIL) and who threatened to exterminate them. At first, the US
said that 130 troops would be landing on Mount Sinjar to aid the
evacuation, but then late in the day said that troops would not be
necessary since the air strikes had been successful. This may
be the same kind of flip-flop as we saw last year in Syria.
The political problem is clear. Many Western politicians supported
the ground invasion of Iraq when it occurred in 2003, as it was almost
universally believed that Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass
destruction, having previously used them against the Kurds and the
Iranians. Then when the war was won but became unpopular anyway,
these politicians flip-flopped and decided that it was a dumb war and
shouldn't have occurred. So now they're in danger of having to
flip-flop again and get dragged kicking and screaming into some kind
of military action in Iraq. Based on our experience in Vietnam, the
most likely result of this is that we'll be dragged into this war step
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain will be
sending ammunition to the Kurds and added, "The first thing is
to deal with this desperate humanitarian situation with people who are
exposed, starving and dying of thirst ... getting them to a place of
safety." Presumably these plans will have to be adjusted as well, in
light of America's change of plans.
France is going farther than Britain and has already begun sending
weapons to the Kurds. The office of French President François
Hollande said in a statement, "To meet the urgent needs voiced by the
Kurdish regional authorities, the head of state (Hollande) decided in
liaison with Baghdad to ship arms in the coming hours."
Possibly the strongest statement was issued by Australia's
prime minister Tony Abbott:
There is a darkening situation in the Middle East, in
particular northern Iraq. There is a continuing humanitarian
catastrophe in and around Mount Sinjar.
The murderous hordes of ISIL, now the Islamic State are on the
[Australia will] provide what assistance we reasonably can to
protect the people who are at risk not just from the elements,
from starvation, from dehydration, from exposure on Mount Sinjar -
but also who are at risk from ISIL forces.
We have seen over the last few months murderous intent ... towards
everyone who does not submit. Plainly, as President Obama has
pointed out, this is potential genocide.
We should do what we can to protect people from potential
genocide ... No one wants to stand aside in the face of a
Asked if that could include military action, Abbott said, "We
certainly don’t rule that out." USA Today and Belfast Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald and France 24
Iraq is repeating the events of the 1930s
The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria/Sham/theLevant (ISIS
or ISIL) has been overwhelming, and their gruesome brutality has become
legendary. But still there are reasons to suspect that ISIS's victory
may be short-lived. Some of the issues facing the Islamic State are:
- The Islamic State is holding a huge amount of territory that it occupied
quickly. But to hold onto that huge territory requires resources and
a great deal of administrative skill that the Islamic State may not be able to
find, as people they govern become increasingly restive.
- The Islamic State's recent successes result from huge caches of American-made
weapons that aren't going to last forever, especially as air strikes
- The Islamic State's success in Iraq was made possible by the cooperation of
former officers in Saddam Hussein's army, who were motivated by the
hatred of the regime of Nouri al-Maliki, not by a desire to join the Islamic State.
Those officers could turn against the Islamic State at any time.
In 2007, I wrote "Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq", and wrote at length
about how the politicians and the mainstream media, many of whom were
openly siding with al-Qaeda in Iraq against President Bush and the
American troops in Iraq, were completely wrong, and that Iraqi Sunnis were joining with the Shias in opposition to al-Qaeda in Iraq. As it
turned out, these politicians and media sources were completely wrong and disgraced themselves by opposing American soldiers in Iraq.
From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the key to
understanding that is to look at Iraq's two generational crisis wars
of the last century: The Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920, and the
Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1988. In both of these crisis wars,
Iraqi Sunnis and Shias put aside their differences and joined together
to fight against outside enemies. For Iraqis, their nationalism
is more important than sectarian differences. They joined together
once again in 2007, when they faced a major external enemy.
History does not support the view that the Islamic State will succeed in
permanently biting off the Sunni portion of Iraq as part of its
the Islamic State. History supports the view that at some point, perhaps
this year, perhaps next year or the year after, after the euphoria of
victory has worn off, Iraqi Sunnis will eject the Islamic State.
Another lesson we can learn about Iraq today is to look at what
happened in the 1930s. Iraq today is one generation past the end of
the Iran/Iraq crisis war, and Iraq in the 1930s was almost one
generation past the end of the Great Iraqi Revolution. In my 2007 article, I quoted at length the
Library of Congress (LOC) article on the history of Iraq. Here is a
brief excerpt from that quote:
On October 13, 1932, Iraq became a sovereign state,
and it was admitted to the League of Nations. Iraq still was beset
by a complex web of social, economic, ethnic, religious, and
ideological conflicts, all of which retarded the process of state
formation. The declaration of statehood and the imposition of
fixed boundaries triggered an intense competition for power in the
new entity. Sunnis and Shias, cities and tribes, shaykhs and
tribesmen, Assyrians and Kurds, pan-Arabists and Iraqi
nationalists--all fought vigorously for places in the emerging
state structure. Ultimately, lacking legitimacy and unable to
establish deep roots, the British-imposed political system was
overwhelmed by these conflicting demands...
The arbitrary borders that divided Iraq and the other Arab lands
of the old Ottoman Empire caused severe economic dislocations,
frequent border disputes, and a debilitating ideological
conflict. The cities of Mosul in the north and Basra in the south,
separated from their traditional trading partners in Syria and in
Iran, suffered severe commercial dislocations that led to economic
depression. In the south, the British- created border (drawn
through the desert on the understanding that the region was
largely uninhabited) impeded migration patterns and led to great
tribal unrest. Also in the south, uncertainty surrounding Iraq's
new borders with Kuwait, with Saudi Arabia, and especially with
Iran led to frequent border skirmishes. The new boundaries also
contributed to the growth of competing nationalisms; Iraqi versus
pan-Arab loyalties would severely strain Iraqi politics during the
1950s and the 1960s, when Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser held
emotional sway over the Iraqi masses.
Ethnic groups such as the Kurds and the Assyrians, who had hoped
for their own autonomous states, rebelled against inclusion within
the Iraqi state.
What all this shows is that Iraqi Sunnis and Shias unite when facing a
foreign enemy, but at other times are in total political chaos. By
changing a few of the words, the LOC history could have applied to
much of the last ten years.
Incidentally, the same cannot be said when you mix in the Kurds. To
the Sunnis and Shias, the Kurds were enemies in these crisis wars, and
bitter feelings run very deep because Saddam used chemical weapons
against the Kurds.
People sometimes think it strange to make these historical
comparisons. "Who remembers all that stuff from the 1930s," you may
be thinking. But in fact almost every person reading this article has
some knowledge of America's 1930s Great Depression, having been told
by parents or grandparents. The same is true of the Iraqi people,
except that their knowledge is about the 1930s in Iraq, the material
in the LOC history above. From the point of view of Generational
Dynamics, these generational histories are highly localized, and
understanding a country's generational history tells a great deal
about how they're going to behave today.
KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iraq, Yadizis, Mount Sinjar,
Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL,
David Cameron, Britain, France, François Holland,
Australia, Tony Abbott, Kurds,
Great Iraqi Revolution, Iran/Iraq war, al-Qaeda in Iraq,
Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki
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