Saturday, October 21, 2006

Required Reading: "A Coup in the Air"

Would a military coup in Iraq solve Bush's problems?

Writing in today's Asia Times, Robert Dreyfuss discusses the signs that Iraq is headed for a coup and military dictatorship. Dreyfuss writes in a well-researched article called "A Coup in the Air":

Of course, no coup will happen at all - no general or colonel would dare try - without, at the very least, a wink and a nod from the CIA, the US military, or Khalilzad. And most likely, it would take significantly more than a wink, something like explicit support and promises of assistance.

But, according to my reporting, that is precisely what is being discussed in Washington, even among the inner councils of Baker's Iraq Study Group, the realist (that is, anti-neo-conservative) commission set up last spring to figure out what to do about Iraq.

Salah Mukhtar, a former top Iraqi official who served as Iraq's ambassador to India and then Vietnam in the period just before the US invasion of Iraq, is not a spokesman for the Iraqi resistance. But he is very well plugged in to the thinking of that country's insurgent leaders. When I spoke to him this week by telephone, he assured me the resistance was well aware that elements in the Bush administration might be planning a coup. According to him, the main focus of such a coup - even one fostered by the United States - would be to mobilize the Iraqi Army against the Shi'ite militias.

The United States is not good at wars against insurgents because, Rumsfeld's protestations to the contrary, they require large numbers of troops. The Pentagon's rule of thumb is 10 troops per insurgent, and all the technology in the world doesn't change that basic rule of insurgent warfare.

The United States is quite good, on the other hand, at counter-insurgency by proxy, providing training, weapons and advice behind the scenes to ruthless dictatorships. A coup in Iraq would permit the U.S. to draw on its ample experience from Latin America during the Cold War. It would absolve the U.S. from all responsibility to Iraqis once the coup has been completed. In short, it would be the most expedient and cynical of all options that are on the table for Iraq.

Make no mistake: A new military dictatorship in Iraq will be one of the bloodiest affairs the world has ever witnessed. The complications arising from warring ethnic groups, rival international interests, a surfeit of arms and deteriorating health conditions practically guarantee that more than three million Iraqis will eventually lose their lives in the ensuing chaos.

Sadly, all Americans will bear the judgment of history and the ire of the Muslim world for that death toll, yet we will have no voice in making the decision to abandon democracy for dictatorship in Iraq, a decision that will be made covertly, without our informed approval, as part of a domestic political calculus to rescue President Bush and the Republicans from the tragic mess they've created.

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