Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bush announces Vietnamization plan

President Bush has announced his plan for winning the war in Iraq. It’s called “Vietnamization”. Of course, he didn’t call it that, but that's name the policy went under during an earlier U.S. war. With the U.S. public getting increasingly restive about his Iraq quagmire, Bush says the training of Iraqi government forces will be stepped up in order to allow U.S. forces to begin withdrawing from the battlefield. One problem is that at the moment apparently only one battalion of Iraqi troops (about 700 men) is able to operate on its own, without U.S. support. In Vietnam, the Saigon government’s army (ARVN) comprised hundreds of thousands of troops, and was able to hold off nationalist/Communist forces for some time after the U.S. began withdrawing its troops, before collapsing utterly in April of 1975. Present Iraqi government forces have nowhere near the capability of ARVN (though the enemy they face is also less numerous and less well equipped than ARVN’s enemy).

My guess is that there are four chances out of five that things will end badly for the U.S. in Iraq. That includes a 20% probability of a total meltdown à la Vietnam, with the last U.S. personnel fleeing in helicopters from the Green Zone in Baghdad, as mobs shouting “Allāhu Akbar” break down the gates. This scenario would presuppose that the Shi'a Muslims have stopped sitting on the sidelines and have decided they want the foreign crusaders out right away. The present guerrilla insurgency is based among the Sunnis. Once the Shi'a turn overtly against the Americans and British, even if they do so more or less non-violently, it's game over.

Perhaps there’s a 60% chance of a non-catastrophic, slower disintegration, with a shaky, patched-together central government gradually becoming less stable, leading either to a break-up of the country or to a dictatorial Shiite regime. And then there’s the 20% chance of an outcome that would allow Bush and company to save face and declare victory: a relatively stable coalition of Shi'a, Sunnis, and Kurds, arising from a decision that the costs of the alternatives are too high for any of them. But even this last outcome would in reality be a defeat for the neo-cons who decided to invade Iraq, since their goal of a pro-U.S. client state, wide-open to U.S. business and a platform for its military forces, would not have been achieved. O, say can you see the light at the end of the tunnel?

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