The future of Iraq

August 31st, 2004 – 9:15 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

Paul Krugman, who is in my opinion the best columnist at the NYT, has a good idea about one way to deal with the future of Iraq:

Now, serious security analysts have begun to admit that the goal of a democratic, pro-American Iraq has receded out of reach. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies – no peacenik – writes that “there is little prospect for peace and stability in Iraq before late 2005, if then.”

Mr. Cordesman still thinks (or thought a few weeks ago) that the odds of success in Iraq are “at least even,” but by success he means the creation of a government that “is almost certain to be more inclusive of Ba’ath, hard-line religious, and divisive ethnic/sectarian movements than the West would like.” And just in case, he urges the U.S. to prepare “a contingency plan for failure.”

Fred Kaplan of Slate is even more pessimistic. “This is a terribly grim thing to say,” he wrote recently, “but there might be no solution to the problem of Iraq” – no way to produce “a stable, secure, let alone democratic regime. And there’s no way we can just pull out without plunging the country, the region, and possibly beyond into still deeper disaster.” Deeper disaster? Yes: people who worried about Ramadi are now worrying about Pakistan.

So what’s the answer? Here’s one thought: much of U.S. policy in Iraq – delaying elections, trying to come up with a formula that blocks simple majority rule, trying to install first Mr. Chalabi, then Mr. Allawi, as strongman – can be seen as a persistent effort to avoid giving Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani his natural dominant role. But recent events in Najaf have demonstrated both the cleric’s awesome influence and the limits of American power. Isn’t it time to realize that we could do a lot worse than Mr. Sistani, and give him pretty much whatever he wants?

The fact that this is a reasonable idea pretty much means that the Bush adminstration won’t go anywhere near it, and there’s the added problem of the anti-Islam thing they keep pushing. Of course, al-Sistani might not want the job anyway, as, from what I understand, he’d rather be the power behind the throne.

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