One bonobo's view of the world...and stuff.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Operation Enduring Mayhem

I've blogged previously about my attitude towards Christoper Hitchens. Here's another article about the Iraqi Civil War by him from Slate. As so often with him, I think he has a lot of fascinating things to say. But I ultimately disagree with his end conclusions.
The basic story is that Saddam was in danger long before 2003. Sooner or later the Iraqi's wouldn't take any more and democracy would ensue. So al-Zaqarwi wrote with an offer for al-Qaeeda to enact brutality on the Shia, goading them to react in kind (a tactic learnt from the Baader-Meinhof/ RAF 'Reaktion gegen Reaktion'?). Win-Win, because al-Q would get to slaughter apostates. This policy was put in place in Saddam's subsequent absence. This has a ring of plausibility about it. Not because it plays to the myth of Saddam as a fanatical supporter of al-Q, but because, although a long standing secularist, since GW1 he increasingly showed himself willing to exploit Islamicists to serve his ends.
Here's what Hitchens draws from it:

Everybody has their own favorite alternative scenario of how things might have evolved differently or better. In some weak moments, I can picture taking the alternative advice from the European Union and the United Nations in 2003—let's just see how Iraq develops if left alone as a private fiefdom of the Saddam Hussein dynasty—and only then deciding that things have deteriorated to the point where an international intervention is necessitated. That would have been much less upsetting and demanding than the direct assumption of responsibility, and could have been triggered by the more familiar images of unbearable suffering and carnage......but it would perforce have been begun very much later—and perhaps too late altogether.

In other words, the invasion didn't trigger the Civil War - eventually it would have been provoked anyway.
Now I do still believe that, for all the bad company he's been keeping, Hitchens is still on the side of the angels. Just. He makes some trenchant digs at the hand-wringing tendency of the liberal left to avoid getting involved (or, rather, abrogate responsibility for problems that are 'too difficult') . I think he was dead right in his support for intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo, too. Commenting on the alternative to invasion, he says:
Nobody has ever even tried to make a case for doing nothing about Iraq
Well, no. Nobody tried to. And he also rightly points out that sanctions were a harmful failure. What he doesn't point out, though, is that it was pretty much impossible to discuss alternatives. Such as constructive engagement with Syria and Iran (moves towards which on several fronts were knocked back by the Bush regime). Such as wider diplomatic solutions to 'The Middle East Problem'. There was an invasion agenda. The parameters for foreign policy were tightly drawn.
Neither does he point out that the invasion didn't immediately trigger a civil war. The coalition signally failed to even understand the need for - let alone to enact - any kind of coherent plan for the stabilisation and reconstruction of Iraq. It was in that vacuum that agitators were able to make merry. The fire was fuelled by the all-round disaffection of the various factions. At very least the blame for that disaffection can be laid at the door of the US.

No comments: