Iraq Study Group and National Reconcilliation
For the record, victory is defined as an Iraq that can "govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself." What the Prez means by that (and the ISG agrees) is an Iraq that has a broadly representative government, has maintained its territorial integrity, is at peace with its neighbors, denies terrorism a sanctuary, and doesn't brutalize its own people.
The biggest element to this is that 'broadly representative government'. This HAS to include the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds and all the minorities--Assyrians and Chaldeans and Mandeans and Turkmen and Jews etc.
Therefore, National Reconcilliation has to be top priority. And the thing is, nothing along those lines can be done by the United States. Iraq has to be able to govern itself, and the Iraqi government must stop thinking in sectarian terms rather than considering itself the government of all Iraqis.
As long as the Shia go out of their way to marginalize the Sunni minority, that minority will continue to feel as if they have no stake in Iraq and no incentive to curb their own who wish to continue fighting. What does that mean?
The Shia have to get serious about shutting down the militias. We can't pretend, as some in the blogosphere are, that this is all al-Sadr, and if the United States goes after the Mahdi Militia then we'll magically solve the militia problem. For one thing the Mahdi Militia has a large number of its members in the Facilities Protection Service (more about that later). For another, like it or not, al-Sadr has a significant support base. If we want to have a broadly representative government, he'll have to be a part of it, or someone like him. But SCIRI's Badr Brigade has to shut down also, and all the rest of the Shia militias, or just taking out or talking down the Mahdi Militia will not solve the problem.
Ending the Shia Militias is the critical piece. If the Sunni are less threatened by genocide and ethnic cleansing (and make no mistake, that is their fate if we fail or withdraw) then they have an incentive to peacefully engage.
Oh, and the idea of the United States trying to shut down the militias isn't going to fly. That's something the Iraqis are going to have to do for themselves.
There's a lot more. There needs to be an end to deBaathification. It is a club used to beat up on the Sunnis, and besides it is keeping a lot of qualified professional experts out of posts where their expertise is needed to rebuild Iraq. Everyone who was ambitious joined the Ba'ath Party. It's like joining the Nazi Party in Germany in 1938, or the Communist Party in the old Soviet Union. Doesn't mean you personally were in favor of smoking 6 million Jews, just means you want a job that pays more than minimum wage.
Other clubs the Shia use to beat on the Sunni include the politicized process of registering NGOs, and the issue of oil sharing. If the Sunni are deprived of a population-based share in the oil revenues, what possible carrot are you going to use to get them in?
Oh, and the Constitution needs review. The Sunni bought into it on the grounds that it would be amended and that promise hasn't been kept.
Let me throw one out that's really unpopular.
That's right folks, even Joe Haji out here in ar-Ramadi needs an incentive to come in from the cold, and amnesty is eventually going to happen. We aren't going to hunt down and kill every ex-insurgent in Iraq. We didn't hunt down and jail every schmuck who carried a rifle for Nazi Germany, did we? Just the concentration camp guards. We wish to reintegrate the insurgents into Iraqi civil life, give them a reason to set down their rifles and start playing normal politics, then the Iraqi government will eventually have to offer amnesty. That idea got floated once, and American domestic politics shot it down. We need to butt the hell out. If it gets the insurgents off the streets, then it is the right thing to do.
We need to encourage talks between everyone. The government, the militias, al-Sadr, the insurgents, anyone who will sit down at a table. And we need to have the withdrawl of American troops on the table at these talks. Jaw-jaw is better than war-war, as the poet once said. If the insurgents will lay down their arms contingent on the disarmament of the militias and the withdrawl of American combat units, then that's everyone's goal anyway, right? I mean, we don't want to have half our combat power sitting around policing Iraq indefinitely.
All wars end in negotiation, with a few exceptions. We aren't going to nuke the bad guys, and it is counterproductive to pretend that, short of exterminating all vertebrate life in from Morocco to India, we are going to wipe out everyone who supports our enemies. So eventually we will have to figure out a way to stop killing each other. The object of war is a more perfect peace, not conflict unending.
How do we get the Shia to buy off on this? Put American withdrawal on the table. Right now, they don't want us to leave. We need to establish realistic milestones with calendar dates, and hold them to them. If they drag their little feet and stall, we threaten (and then follow through on the threat if necessary) to cut them out. At some point the Shia need to be told point-blank that they are NOT the United States's only priority when it comes to use of our military power, and that we will not be held hostage to their petty bullshit. We are leaving Iraq eventually. They can work with us, and hence have some influence over the process, and when we leave they will be in a fairly good situation. Or they can keep doing business the way they do business now, and get left in the lurch.
And if it doesn't work, there's always the option of exterminating all vertebrate life from Morocco to India.