Saturday, June 17, 2006

Brother, can you spare a tipping point?

















In case you haven't, please read my recent The Ever Elusive 'Tipping Point' in Iraq in which I make among other things the following point(s):
The problem that Mr. Bush is facing in Iraq – the point that never seems to tip – has to do with the entire faulty strategy that led to the invasion of Iraq. When it comes to civil and international wars, their "tipping point," the one that marks the victory of one side over the other, is actually the outcome of a process consisting of three stages.
First, one side is being crushed on the battlefield and is unable to fight anymore. Then the defeated party raises the white flag. And finally, the losing side "embraces defeat" and agrees to accept the political terms imposed by the winner.
In Iraq, the United States was able to crush one element, Saddam and his military, representing the interests of the Arab-Sunni minority. But the Arab-Sunnis have never raised the white flag and have certainly not embraced defeat. At the same time, the power in Iraq shifted to a coalition led by the Arab-Shi'ite religious political parties who see themselves – and not the Americans – as the victorious party and are unwilling to accept the political terms dictated by the US. And in the middle are a divided group of Kurdish nationalists who have allied themselves with the Americans on a conditional ad-hoc basis.
If anything, from the perspectives of the Arab-Shi'ites in Baghdad and their co-religionists in Tehran and the Iraqi Kurds, the "tipping point" has already occurred with the collapse of Saddam and the Sunni-led Ba'ath regime.
Now these two groups are ready for the next campaign to advance their own respective interests – and not that of the Americans. The Shi'ites hope to consolidate their power in Baghdad, a process that could involve struggles among the various Shi'ite militias, and would do very little to advance US interests or values, unless the strengthening of Iran's power in the Persian Gulf and the establishment of a quasi-theocracy in parts of Iraq can be spun as triumph for "freedom."
Similarly, the Kurds are interested in strengthening the foundations of their autonomy, cleansing their area from Arab-Sunnis and pressing forward for political independence for the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Syria, a process that would run contrary to US interests in the region. In that event, another pseudo event will be staged in the Green Zone in Baghdad and in Washington to persuade us once again that the tide is turning, the point is tipping, and the mission – was or is or will be – accomplished.

I was also delighted that my earlier posts on David Brooks' predictions about the coming struggle between "populist nationalists" and "progressive globalists" as well as the one about Jim Webb's win in Virginia have received quite a few responses. My guess is probably in a strategic position to take advantage of the anti-war sentiments in his state and around the country. He represents the first serious political threat to the Bush's foreign policy agenda. If he beats George Allen, he'll be in a position to re-energize the Democrats around opposition to the Iraq War. I hope he doesn't make major mistakes that will play into the hands of the Bushies.

More challenges to "Brooksism"

Daniel Larison in Eunomia discusses some of the problems and inconsistencies in David Brooks' new political-ideological split of "pop-nats" vs. "prog-globs." Among other things he suggests that:
Note how Brooks has defined determining trade policies in the light of national interest or maintaining a domestic industrial base (the sorts of policies that he, as a prog-glob, despises) as "liberal" economics (as Brooks is relying on the phrase "liberal on economics" to scare the well-to-do to side with the prog-globs), whereas policies dedicated to shoring up the interests of the extensive bureaucratic machinery of multinational corporations and international governing institutions are allegedly "market-oriented." You don't need to think on that much to see that the prog-glob embrace of "market-oriented" policies is a corrupt and distorted one that aims to use certain mechanisms of "the market" to expand their control.

And, indeed, not only are many free-market proponents (libertarians, etc) are opposed to the idea of promoting democracy through the use of government and military power. My guess is that that is the dominant view in the Silicon Valley and its satellites.
There is also an interesting discussion of the issue in verbum ipsum.