Thoughts on Iraq from the UK

Would a federal Iraq serve American interests?
And are the Brits getting tired of being played for patsies by BushCo?
A UK reader shares some thoughts.

A British reader writes:

Matthew Yglesias links to an important new article in the NYRB by Pater Galbraith. including these three lapidary sentences:

“There is, in fact, no Iraqi insurgency. There is a Sunni Arab insurgency. And it cannot win.”

This deserves as wide circulation as possible. It prompts several thoughts.

The Sunni insurgency has two components: secular Sunni ex-Baathists whose programme is more or less (a) “Bring back Saddam (or another Sunni Arab secular strongman), lording it over Kurds and Shia” and Sunni jihadis who want (b) “drive the infidel Americans out”, and (unclearly) (c) “set up a Sunni theocracy. lording it over Kurds and Shia”.

Thought experiment: if the USA just quit tomorrow, what would the insurgents do? The jihadis would have achieved aim (b); since aim (c) is suicidally impossible, they would most likely declare victory and move on. That would leave the secular Baathists. The Kurds would stand on the sidelines while the Shia militias crushed them with Iranian help. Ethnic cleansing of defeated Sunnis would be a possibility. End-state: de facto partition of Iraq into two (think Belgium or Bosnia), with an ongoing low-level Sunni terrorist movement (think ETA, IRA) preventing economic recovery in the Arab part but not strong enough to change the regime. US bases? Privileged access to oil? Cosy reconstruction contracts? Forget it. More likely demands for rendition of Abu Ghraib players to face trial on torture charges.

Second, minor thought: what is keeping British forces in Basra? They are only being seriously attacked, and then occasionally, by Sunni insurgents who have to travel down, without the local support needed to be effective. The net contribution of British forces to the security of the inhabitants of Basra province is probably negligible. So they are there to try to hold back Iranian influence, a hopeless task, and of course to fly the tattered figleaf of the “coalition”. A waste of time, money and lives.

In all the blogerfuffle over the Downing Street Memos, nobody seems to have asked the question why top-secret inner British Cabinet documents were leaked in the first place. Someone at the heart of the British security establishment is angry enough to break serious confidences, in a much more secretive administrative culture than Washington’s. It’s just posible it was done by a Brown ally to undermine Blair: but that would have been very dangerous if Blair had discovered this and reacted vengefully. More likely, it’s just a step in the disintegration of the “special relationship”.

Subtext: We were used; never again.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: