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  • American incompetence



    "The End of Iraq, definitive, tough-minded, clear-eyed, describes America's failed strategy toward that country and what must be done now. The United States invaded Iraq with grand ambitions to bring it democracy and thereby transform the Middle East. Instead, Iraq has disintegrated into three constituent components: a pro-western Kurdistan in the north, an Iran-dominated Shiite entity in the south, and a chaotic Sunni Arab region in the center. The country is plagued by insurgency and is in the opening phases of a potentially catastrophic civil war. George W. Bush broke up Iraq when he ordered its invasion in 2003. The United States not only removed Saddam Hussein, it also smashed and later dissolved the institutions by which Iraq's Sunni Arab minority ruled the country: its army, its security services, and the Baath Party. With these institutions gone and irreplaceable, the basis of an Iraqi state has disappeared. The End of Iraq describes the administration's strategic miscalculations behind the war as well as the blunders of the American occupation. There was the failure to understand the intensity of the ethnic and religious divisions in Iraq. This was followed by incoherent and inconsistent strategies for governing, the failure to spend money for reconstruction, the misguided effort to create a national army and police, and then the turning over of the country's management to Republican political loyalists rather than qualified professionals. As a matter of morality, Galbraith writes, the Kurds of Iraq are no less entitled to independence than are Lithuanians, Croatians, or Palestinians. And if the country's majority Shiites want to run their own affairs, or even have their own state, on what democratic principle should they be denied? If the price of a unified Iraq is another dictatorship, Galbraith writes in The End of Iraq, it is too high a price to pay. The United States must focus now, not on preserving or forging a unified Iraq, but on avoiding a spreading and increasingly dangerous and deadly civil war. It must accept the reality of Iraq's breakup and work with Iraq's Shiites, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs to strengthen the already semi-independent regions. If they are properly constituted, these regions can provide security, though not all will be democratic. There is no easy exit from Iraq for America. We have to relinquish our present strategy - trying to build national institutions when there is in fact no nation. That effort is doomed, Galbraith argues, and it will only leave the United States with an open-ended commitment in circumstances of uncontrollable turmoil. Peter Galbraith has been in Iraq many times over the last twenty-one years during historic turning points for the country: the Iran-Iraq War, the Kurdish genocide, the 1991 uprising, the immediate aftermath of the 2003 war, and the writing of Iraq's constitutions. In The End of Iraq, he offers many firsthand observations of the men who are now Iraq's leaders. He draws on his nearly two decades of involvement in Iraq policy working for the U.S. government to appraise what has occurred and what will happen. The End of Iraq is the definitive account of this war and its ramifications.


    The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End by Peter W. Galbraith

    Book review:

    Books criticizing the three-year-old presence in Iraq of US military personnel and civilian contractors abound. Each of those books, naturally, offers a somewhat unique perspective. Of all the books I have read, Peter W. Galbraith's "The End of Iraq" contains the most useful information for readers across the bitterly divided spectrum: readers who support George W. Bush's war policy and readers who oppose it, readers who already know a lot about the history of Iraq and readers who are mostly unschooled, readers who believe the United States should serve as the world's police force and readers who believe socioeconomic problems within American boundaries ought to receive priority.

    Before learning about the unalloyed virtues of Galbraith's book, know this: It is a bitter book, an indictment of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and many others who serve the administration. Although Galbraith is a Democrat , the indictment is based not so much on partisan politics as on Galbraith's outrage at the administration's failure to make decisions based on historical and contemporary fact .

    Unlike many critics and supporters of the American presence in Iraq, Galbraith has considerable firsthand experience in that part of the world. As a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff member during the 1980s and 1990s, he traveled there multiple times and also saw reams of non-public information provided to Congress. Since leaving government service, Galbraith has been to Iraq more than a dozen times, as a freelance writer and as a consultant to ABC News. Furthermore, Galbraith has watched another nation, Yugoslavia, atomize along ethnic and religious lines much as Iraq has done. During the Clinton White House years , Galbraith served as an ambassador to Croatia while helping to mediate a ceasefire of sorts in the former Yugoslavia.

    Yugoslavia is especially relevant to a discussion of the book's overarching messages: Neither Yugoslavia nor Iraq ever should be considered a legitimate "country" in semantic terms, with an easily identifiable national interest. Instead, those locales served as constructs convenient to outside powers like the United States, places where traditionally warring populations became unwilling neighbors in the interests of postwar geopolitical compromises.

    In modern-day Iraq, the mix involves three primary group s: the Shiite Persian branch of Islam, the numerical majority; the Sunni Arab branch of Islam, a sometimes violent minority as exemplified by dictator Saddam Hussein; and the Kurdish population, who considered themselves worthy of a separate nation.

    So, Galbraith wonders, given peoples who despise one another, why would Bush or anybody else who understands the lessons of history invade their territory under the guise of establishing a unified democratic government?

    In one of his more charitably worded criticisms, Galbraith writes, "With regard to Iraq, President Bush and his top advisors have consistently substituted wishful thinking for analysis and hope for strategy."

    The imperfect course of action, circa 2006 : Withdraw American troops and advisers, Galbraith says . "The conventional response to discussions of Iraq's breakup is to say it would be destabilizing. This is a misreading of Iraq's modern history. It is the holding of Iraq together by force that has been destabilizing. This has led to big armies, repressive governments, squandered oil revenues, genocide at home, and aggression abroad. Today, America's failed effort to build a unified and democratic Iraq has spawned a ferocious insurgency and a Shiite theocracy."

    Lessons unlearned: Why Bush is failing in Iraq

  • #2
    Former ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith says that two months before the U.S. invaded Iraq, George W. Bush did not know that there were two major sects of Islam in Iraq. According to Galbraith, a year after giving his "Axis of Evil" speech, Bush met with three Iraqi Americans, who described to him what they thought the consequences might be if Saddam Hussein were taken out of power.

    According to Galbraith, it became clear to them that Bush had no clue that there were Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. The Iraqi American consultants explained the situation to him, and his response was: "I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!"

    No one should be surprised. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush could not identify the Taliban. But as he himself has said - it's hard work, being president.

    Sunnis and Shi'ites and Muslims, oh my!

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    • #3
      "One concludes this book with the impression of an author who may well end up serving in a T.E. Lawrence–like capacity for the Kurds, but who lacks a solidly cast policy proposal for all the territory of modern Iraq. At its best, Galbraith’s book offers interesting insights into the mind of an influential US intellectual. At its worst it seems a pre-written obituary that has long been languishing in a desk drawer. The country it describes stubbornly refuses to lie down and die; hence, the author has turned sour and through increasingly heated ad hoc addendums to the text does his utmost to accelerate the final exit. 'The End of Iraq' is in itself far from lethal, but the possibility that other Western intellectuals may try to surpass Galbraith remains."

      Reidar Visser: Review of Peter Galbraith's The End of Iraq

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