Monday, November 20, 2006

Kissinger: Security, not democracy, in Iraq

I don't think anyone saw this one coming. Henry Kissinger, appearing yesterday on the BBC, said that the US and the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" should forget about trying to establish a stable democracy in Iraq and instead make its first priority securing the country as well as the surrounding region -- even if it means talking to Syria, Saudi Arabia and the ultimate anathema, re-establishing full diplomatic relations with Iran. (Consider the fact that Washington doesn't even recognize the right of Iran or North Korea to exist, yet Canada has posts in both despite long-standing grievances.) From where he sees it, there's no way to win in Iraq so it mght be better just to go for a stalemate.

Kissinger may not be an entirely likeable fellow, at least where I come from, but like most ex-Secretaries of State (and for what it's worth, the former National Security Advisers also) they have experience and wisdom to back up what they say. In his particular case, the experience of the Vietnam War. The word "quagmire" keeps coming up in discussions, but as Kissinger points out, Iraq is a whole lot worse. That's because South Vietnam actually had a government. A corrupt one, to be sure, but it functioned. In the case of Iraq, the West has attempted twice in fifty years to create a new government out of whole cloth, and that simply is impossible to do.

Even the United States, which seceeded from Great Britain, didn't exactly start from scratch. The colonial legislatures simply declared in 1776 that they no longer owed any loyalty to London and would take matters into their own hands. When Canada was created as a federal state, the legislatures in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia carried on as they were before, while Lower and Upper Canada were reborn as Québec and Ontario -- the only thing new was a national Parliament.

So what did the West do in Iraq? They disbanded the Army, banned the Ba'ath, and any other semblance of the government that actually operated to the people's benefit; and started all over again. Matter of fact, that's what we did in Afghanistan as well, and Canada's a part of that mission. There may be a rotten core, but as long as there is a core it can be repaired or made to work better. Get rid of it and try something else, and you don't know what you'll get. Fail to do on the ground intelligence beforehand and find out willing partners within the government who can take over on a moment's notice to start repairing the damage, and you become nothing better than a military invader and occupier.

The right wingers must be kicking themselves over losing someone like Kissinger. But he's nailed the issue. To repair the breach, one has to reach out to the enemies. And the domino effect is already starting to become evident -- Iraq could wind up being even more hostile to the West than Iran is, or worse come within the latter's shadow as a client state. Add Syria and Saudi Arabia, both of which may be reassessing their long-standing frendship with the States, and the GOP has one heck of a mess on its hands. Unintended consequences of a mission which had a pretty tenuous premise to begin with and which turned out to be not true.

Anyone want to place bets on when Jerusalem will say enough is enough and fire its nuclear weapons eastward, before the States has a chance to talk to its rivals?

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