One of These Things Is Not Like the Others
Retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash:
"We’re in a civil war now; it’s just that not everybody’s joined in," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, a former military commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "The failure to understand that the civil war is already taking place, just not necessarily at the maximum level, means that our counter measures are inadequate and therefore dangerous to our long-term interest.
"It’s our failure to understand reality that has caused us to be late throughout this experience of the last three years in Iraq," added Nash, who is an ABC News consultant.
"If you talk to U.S. intelligence officers and military people privately, they’d say we’ve been involved in low level civil war with very slowly increasing intensity since the transfer of power in June 2004."
Since the elections last year, Cordesman says, more radical Islamist insurgents have made "a more dedicated strike at the fault lines between Shiites and Sunnis." And they have succeeded.
Current US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad:
The top U.S. envoy to Iraq said Monday that the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime had opened a "Pandora’s box" of volatile ethnic and sectarian tensions that could engulf the region in all-out war if America pulled out of the country too soon.
In remarks that were among the frankest and bleakest public assessments of the Iraq situation by a high-level American official, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the "potential is there" for sectarian violence to become full-blown civil war.
For now, Iraq has pulled back from that prospect after the wave of sectarian reprisals that followed the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra, he said. But "if another incident [occurs], Iraq is really vulnerable to it at this time, in my judgment," Khalilzad said in an interview with The Times.
Official Presidential and DoD outlook, via Chairman of the JCOS, Gen. Peter Pace:
"I wouldn’t put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they’re going very, very well from everything you look at."
Froomkin documents even more articles on the subject of civil war and conflict in Iraq and quotes from various experts on the ground and back here at home, but Pace’s comments are clearly a bit out of step, to put it mildly, compared to every other assessment I’ve been reading.
For more perspective on this, please take a peek at the articles Froomkin links today — some good stuff. (Yesterday’s Froomkin had some great links as well, in case you missed it.) One in particular that I want to highlight for its Iraqi take on things is the one from Reuters. Also, as always, Prof. Juan Cole has an exceptional summary and updates that are well worth your time. See also, here and here from the NYTimes.
I don’t know any good answer for any of this mess. Everything I read on potential solutions comes riddled with caveats. I was against this war from the start, because it was ill-advised, unnecessary and very poorly planned. But woulda, coulda, shoulda doesn’t get us out of Iraq without making things any worse…and lord knows, making things worse is the last thing that the Iraqi people need at the moment.
The one thing that is crystal clear in my mind is this fact: in order to resolve any of these issues, the President has to be willing to look at the facts — the honest-to-god reality of the situation, and not the sugar-coated rosy scenario that his advisers spoon-feed him to keep him happy — and I’m not confident that is happening, based on the spin we constantly get from the Bush Administration.
When the President can’t even be honest with himself about a grave error in judgment — when he is too cowardly to even be honest with himself in his own heart, can he ever make a course correction for the better? Can he allow himself to say "I was wrong, and we need to do things differently?" (And nothing like having the Vice President threaten Iran with "meaningful consequences" to escalate tension in the region, eh? I’m just saying…)
If the President refuses to even be honest with himself, who will step in and make him see the need to do just that…before it is too late?