Saturday, December 09, 2006
Feel it closing in, day in, day out:
Laura's report that the back-the-Shiites option is back on the table is in today's Washington Post. Naturally, the option comes Cheney-approved:

Vice President Cheney's office has most vigorously argued for the "80 percent solution," in terms of both realities on the ground and the history of U.S. engagement with the Shiites, sources say. A source familiar with the discussions said Cheney argued this week that the United States could not again be seen to abandon the Shiites, Iraq's largest population group, after calling in 1991 for them to rise up against then-President Saddam Hussein and then failing to support them when they did. Thousands were killed in a huge crackdown.

And you know what? Cheney is not crazy to put this out there. Let's say you buy the idea that Iran poses the greatest near-term challenge to U.S. hegemony in the Mideast. You're never going to convince Shiite Iraqis that the U.S. is dearer to their hearts than their Shiite cousins, but you can at least complicate the Great-Satan narrative by assisting the Shiites in their war against the Sunni oppressors. Furthermore, 80 percent is a large number. It's hard to argue that Khalilzad and the military got the all-out negotiations with the Sunnis they wanted, but by all accounts, what they did have delivered nothing. If you need to put some fairly durable band-aids on Iraq, it's not crazy.

There you have the logic of a futile, astrategic war. What makes sense in the context of the war makes absolutely no sense in the context of the broader strategic picture that the war was supposed to uncomplicate. Yes, the Shiites-plus-Kurds are 80 percent of Iraq; but if that number sounds impressive, the Sunnis are 85 percent of the world's billion-point-three Muslims. I'm sick of recycling this year-old passage, but here it is:
Bush might well remember that his supposed rationale for invading Iraq is to advance the war on terrorism, which is, in no small part, about convincing millions of Sunnis worldwide that the United States is not opposed to their religion. Directly supporting the Shia against the Sunnis in Iraq is about as counterproductive to the broader war as invading Iraq itself has proved. "I'm not sure the U.S. government could or should--it certainly shouldn't--pit the Sunnis and the Shia against each other," says Richard Clarke, the former Clinton and Bush counterterrorism adviser. "Not that it's in our interest." Unfortunately, in Iraq, acting against U.S. interests is about the only thing Bush has done successfully.
I'm sure Cheney's Saudi friends just loved the idea that we'd back the Shiites against the Sunnis. So did King Abdullah and the Cedar Revolution crowd. Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah like it just fine. And they're especially tickled by the idea that a corpulent, sneering Wyoming oil mogul thinks he can play this game better than they can.
--Spencer Ackerman
Spencer: can you shed some light on what it actually means to align ourselves with the Shi'a? Does that mean allowing the the Shi'a to wipe out the Sunnis? Diving Iraq in two (Kurdish North/Shi'a South)? I mean is it even possible to align ourselves with the Arab Shi'a and the Kurds without completely radicalizing the majority of Arab Sunnis is the region?

And what's up with Cheney's obsession with percent solutions? (The 1% Doctrine for getting us into the war, the 80% Solution for getting us out.) He's like a fourth grader who's just learned fractions wants to prove it to the rest of the class.
Blogger Eric the Political Hack | 1:20 PM