Saturday, October 16, 2004

Just what is the goal in Iraq?

Something about the new US offensive against Fallujah nagged at me all day yesterday, but I couldn't put my finger on it. There's the obvious, which I've already mentioned and won't belabor, but something else, too.

I've figured out what it is:

U.S. troops detained Fallujah's top negotiator in the peace talks, witnesses said.

I guess I will belabor the obvious once again for a moment: 27 million Iraqis are watching. No, the occupational forces and their collaorators can't be expected to just stand down for Ramadan, but launching a major offensive going into Ramadan isn't much of a heart- and mind-winner, either.

Others are watching, too.

Namely, the resistance.

Estimates of the resistance's size varies -- as of last November, DoD was saying 5,000. As of last month, they were saying 20,000. Most non-DoD sources think that the Iraqi resistance is much larger and growing like Topsy.

The resistance is obviously composed of a multiplicity of groups, each with its own agenda. Some of them are going to be "fight to the death" types who won't consider reaching a modus vivendi with the occupation or its collaborators under any circumstances. It's not them I'm thinking about.

We've seen, with Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army, that some of the resistance groups have limited goals. They'd happily eject the occupiers if they could; failing that, they're conditionally willing to ground their arms for a place at the Iraqi political table.

If, that is, the Americans can be trusted to honor the agreement. Al Sadr had to drive this lesson home after the US violated its first ceasefire with him. I thought that the affair had been entered into the "lessons learned" notebook. Apparently not.

Detaining envoys sent to negotiate agreements doesn't seem like the best way to engender the trust necessary to halting hostilities.

To put a finer point on it, if Grant had kidnapped Lee and spirited him away, the Army of Northern Virginia would have a) doubled in size as outraged new recruits flocked to its banners and b) fought to the last man.

I'll let you in on a little secret: The US has no chance whatsoever of defeating the Iraq resistance in toto. It can't be done, because the fighting itself brings new recruits to the cause faster than they can be killed. The only chance of achieving "pacification," slim as it is, lies in diverting most of the resistance into a political process and isolating the diehards. The latter are a "vanguard" whose recruiting prospects will diminish once they are no longer part of a much larger movement.

So, how many of the resistance groups are likely to even talk to the US if the people they send to do the talking are scooped up and hauled to Abu Ghraib?

What the hell are we trying to accomplish over there? The indications are that it isn't anything resembling "pacification."

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