Sunday, November 14, 2004

Wesley Clark's vision for Fallujah

Retired General and former Democratic presidential nominee Wesley Clark has written an analysis of the battle for Fallujah, and its implications for the rest of Iraq and the surrounding region. Clark makes some good points, but stumbles in other places.

Among his good points:

To win means not just to occupy the city, but to do so in a way that knocks the local opponent permanently out of the fight, demoralizes broader resistance, and builds legitimacy for U.S. aims, methods and allies. Seen this way, the battle for Fallujah is not just a matter of shooting. It is part of a larger
bargaining process that has included negotiations, threats and staged preparations to pressure insurgent groups into preemptive surrender, to deprive them of popular tolerance and support, and to demonstrate to the Iraqi people and to others that force was used only as a last resort in order to gain increased legitimacy for the interim Iraqi government."

However, when it comes to the battle's implications for the upcoming elections, Clark speaks thusly:

Bringing about change in [Syria and Iran] should be a matter of offering inducements as well as making threats, but not if it adds to the danger for our men and women in uniform. We need to choose: continue to project a grand vision, or focus on success in Iraq. Not only the safety of our troops, but the success of our mission depends on a degree of Syrian and Iranian accommodation for an American-supported, peaceful, stable, democratizing Iraq. And we won't get that support if they think they're next on the hit list."

Unless I'm sorely mistaken, success in Iraq is indeed part of "projecting a grand vision." In a sense, there's a point to wanting to "take on" one problem at a time, but the democratization of Iraq was, I thought, a piece in a "grand vision" for the entirety of the Middle East.

It's not a popular idea, since apparently the cultures of Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest - which include denying women the rights to vote, work, and wear clothes that display their faces - are to be left completely inviolate. But, like it or hate it, the "plan," such as it was, was to initiate a modernization of the entire region, one that would allow a more pluralistic mentality into the overarching social structure of the Arab world, right?

Furthermore, "making threats" should be accompanied by the ability to enforce said threats. When that boils down to the level of the boots on the ground, it necessarily implies added danger to our men and women in uniform.

Another misstep:

For most of a year, the effort at political transformation has been submerged beneath the rubric of "reconstruction" and hindered by the attitude that "security must come first." Security and domestic Iraqi politics go hand in hand... Troops are in Fallujah because of a political failure: Large numbers of Sunnis either wouldn't, or couldn't, participate in the political process and the coming elections. Greater security in Fallujah may move citizens (whenever they return) to take part in the voting; it's too early to say. But it's certain that you can't bomb people into the polling booths."

No, you can't bomb them into polling booths, but bombs (in the form of car bombs and IEDs - improvised explosive devices) certainly can keep them out. I think it's pretty safe to say that security is a pretty high concern for anyone interested in seeing these elections occur.

Hey, this guy was a four-star general, and I'm just a lowly enlisted specialist, pretty close to the bottom of the Army barrel. But come on, Sir!