(I originally posted this piece in October 2011. Geez I’m smart!)
Ok. President Obama announced the the Iraq War is now officially over and our troops will be home for the holidays.
Did we “win”?
We did get Saddam and replace him with something else. Instead of a dictator there is now a Prime Minister and a Parliament of sorts. On the other hand everyone still has plenty of guns – Sadrists, Sunnis and Kurds are all well armed. Fired up and ready to go.
They have known all along what Ho Chi Minh knew all along. Eventually we will go home. There is no “winning”. There never was.
In the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” Auda Abu Tayi (played by Anthony Quinn) is seeking something “honorable” to take as booty before he goes home and leaves the ragtag Arab militia. He is chided by the British officers for his intention. Auda replies to them “When you have what you want you will go home!”
Life imitating art.
So what will happen to Iraq?
Iraq is a history of coup and counter-coup; of Kings and strongmen. I fear it will be thus after we are gone. I give the government a few years.
Iraq is not a “nation” in the western sense. It was drawn on a map by the British and French after he dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. In the then secret Sykes-Picot Agreement France got modern Syria and Lebanon, the borders of which were all drawn free-hand by the negotiators on a map. The Brits got Iraq, Jordan and the Palestine Mandate (lucky them). Neither country cared exactly who lived within the new borders. The British promptly put a Hashemite Sunni on the Iraq “throne” as “king” of a Shia majority “nation”. The “monarchy” of British origin lasted until 1953 when King Faisal II, the crown prince, his mother, sister, aunt and the Prime Minister were machine gunned in the courtyard of the palace complex after surrendering to the Army.
The monarchy was abolished and a “sovereignty Council” consisting of representatives of the three ethnic groups took control of the country. Instability continued until the triumph of the mostly secular Baathists and the coming of Saddam.
The Ottomans ruled Iraq as three “provinces” one each for Sunni, Shia and Kurd. They were smarter than we give them credit.
I expect the three groups will re-arm themselves and eventually commence fighting until one tough guy emerges. What do you think the Sunni and Shia militia did with their arms? Why they put them away waiting for us to leave.
I hate to be a pessimist but I am pessimistic about Iraq’s future. The best outcome I can see is a loose confederation of three self-governing provinces with a central government which is responsible for foreign relations, a small standing army for defense and an equitable sharing of oil revenues. The worst scenario is civil war with the Sadrists/Shia supported by the Ayatollahs in Teheran and the Sunnis by Saudi money and arms.
So no I don’t think we “won”.
We lost our honor when we, as the world’s only super-power attacked a hapless third world country which hadn’t attacked us, based on lies. Nobody liked Saddam. The fact however is that the war was started based on lies. We watched “shock and awe” on CNN like it was a video game. The world saw us for what we are.