November 29, 2005

Rebutting Odom I

Finally got a link to Gen. Odom's recent column on Iraq. Gen. Odom is a serious man and deserves to have his views addressed seriously. I completely disagree with them.

If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Arenít they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

1) We would leave behind a civil war.
2) We would lose credibility on the world stage.
3) It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.
4) Iraq would become a haven for terrorists.
5) Iranian influence in Iraq would increase.
6) Unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in Iraq's neighbors.
7) Shiite-Sunni clashes would worsen.
8) We havenít fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.
9) Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.

The list itself is biased to his arguments and frames the debate in a manner that favors his argument. That's not a mortal sin but it's certainly not a fair minded analysis of the situation by somebody with no axe to grind.

The big unlisted elephant is, of course, national partition along ethno-religious lines with a tripartite division with Shiite Arab, Sunni Kurd, and Sunni Arab successor states emerging. This doesn't match the Odom narrative so is unmentioned.

A corollary to that would be the precedent in the region of creating such ethno-religous sub-states would become popular in a region that is full of artificial lines and weak authoritarian governments. The regionalization of that precedent would be a separate bad outcome from the original partition.

One of the crucial (and very underanalyzed) outcomes necessary for a victory on the War on Terror is the emergence of a muslim theological corpus of judicial decisions that delegitimizes terrorism. Iraq is very much in the forefront of that developing body of anti-terror theology. A US pullout would free imams to shut up anti-terror theologians by violence in a way that they are constrained from doing today.

No doubt there's others but it's a fundamental flaw of the article that no inconvenient pro-stay the course rationale that doesn't fit the preconceived narrative is included. Wasn't that supposed to be the major Bush administration sin on pre-war intelligence? Here we see the effect in full flower without the least excuse for it.

Posted by TMLutas at November 29, 2005 01:55 PM