|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
George W. Bush’s answer to when U.S. troops will leave Iraq is: “As the Iraqis stand up – we will stand down.” To achieve this goal, we have been told by various administration officials, the U.S. is “training up” Iraqi forces to eventually take over the fighting.
Unfortunately, this is gibberish. Not that Iraqi soldiers are incapable of fighting (Look no further than the "untrained" insurgents who have tied up the most powerful and best-trained army on earth). It’s just that there is little evidence that any significant number of people want to be soldiers for something called "Iraq."
Building national security institutions – an effective army and police—is not a simple question of military consolidation and technical expertise. It is, rather, a primarily political matter. Can you build a unified, strong national state for which everyday soldiers are willing to die?
In today’s Iraq, unfortunately, just donning the uniform (or standing in line at a recruiting office) can you get blown up before you’re even pressed into duty.
It has become ever clearer that the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the Saddam dictatorship has set into force powerful centrifugal ethnic forces that are spinning out of control. Iraq – thanks to the British colonialists – was always a paper-thin, manufactured state. Only the leaden hand and the willing trigger finger of a tyrant like Hussein could hold the national state together.
The enormous and likely insuperable obstacles to agreeing upon a strong but federal Iraqi state of the sort we are witnessing this week were ably predicted a month ago by Peter Galbraith in the New York Review of Books.
In startlingly stark terms, Galbraith detailed how the pro-Iranian Shiite forces have consolidated their political influence in the "national" government (without as much as a hiccup from the Bushies) while – in the northern part of Iraq—the Kurds have bunkered in to defend their all-but-in-name independence.
There are, seemingly, plenty of Iraqi Shia ready to defend to the death what is now an incipient Islamic Republic. And there are tens of thousands of skilled Kurd peshmarga fighters totally devoted to the cause of... Kurdistan. But that leaves few, if anybody, ready to die for Iraq.