Why there’s no meaningful debate about the “troop-surge”
The Ethiopian invasion of Somalia occurred because both sides had concluded that the United States supported the idea of a military solution, rather than negotiated power-sharing between the Islamic Courts organization and the so-called interim federal government (IFG). You don’t have to take my word for it, it is the well-supported view of John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group (Brussels-based). Unfortunately, the only web-accessible venue for his remarks seems to be Al-Quds al-Arabi, the pan-Arab newspaper published in London.
Of course if you prefer the other approach, you could read the accounts in the NYT over the last few days, where they tell a story of exciting military strategy and with a clear-cut victory for the “government”, no mention there of any negotiating option whatsoever.
It is a familiar situation: News of an exciting military victory for our side against the dangerous Islamists, touted by the readily-available NYT, and a less-exciting account, often not circulated at all in America, having to do with the actual alignment of political forces, which you really have to hunt for. Only if you put the two accounts together can you grasp the way in which the Bush administration is confirming and strengthening the anti-American, pan-Arab view, which is that Somalia is being added as the fifth Arab nation to be attacked in this way, after Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Sudan, just for being Arab and Islamic. Ali Muhammed Fakhro, writing on the Al-Quds al-Arabi opinion page yesterday, warned people in other Arab states not to be complacent in 2007: this could happen to your country too. (It’s a pdf link; it is the column at the left).
What else is new? What else is new is that the Bush administration is about to order an increase in troop levels in Iraq, and not only does nobody know why, but nobody in the American media asks why, either.
Norwegian historian and Shiite-scholar Reidar Visser yesterday sent to his e-mail subscribers (a free service) a draft op-ed piece, aimed at the American press, setting out what would be really the only rational basis for a troop-surge , and the argument goes like this: Any improvement in Iraqi security would be a boon to all, including all the Iraqi political parties. If the US is able to offer any such improvement, it should be conditioned on a commitment by the political class (particularly the leadership of SCIRI and the two big Kurdish parties) to do what they have so far failed to do, namely make the necessary serious concessions to reconcile Sunni groups to the political process (including points having to do with federalism, de-Baathification, and so on). Doing this publicly would put “pressure from below” on the party leaders, who otherwise feel no such pressure. Without such serious political restructuring, any troop-increase will only mean more of the same (at best).
Read the rest here.