“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Can European diplomacy provide a solution to return Iraq to tranquility?

Like it or not, the writing on the wall indicates much against a military solution for Iraq. The announcement of the English and Danes withdrawal, while not significant in numbers, will only encourage continued and growing US domestic opposition to a military solution to the war.

If a diplomatic solution is attainable it is better to seek it now, before the support level in the US passes an irreversible tipping point.

More importantly, if diplomacy will fail, it is better it fail now. That would at least make it obvious that a military withdrawal cannot be considered. DW looks at a possible European role.

with Iraq | 15.11.2006
German Leader Calls for More Active European Role in Iraq

Can Europe do more to help rebuild Iraq?

German President Horst Köhler has called on European nations to take more action to help stabilize Iraq. But what sort of options can Europe offer to constructively support the country's future?

German President Horst Köhler has called on European nations to take more action to help stabilize Iraq. Experts say any additional efforts will only be successful if countries cooperate with the United States.

Europe needs to strengthen the dialogue with the United States on the future of Iraq, according to German President Horst Köhler.

"The war has led to a disaster, but we can't sit back and say it's a problem for the Americans," Köhler said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau. "That would be dumb, short-sighted and arrogant."

Experts said sending more troops wouldn't help the Iraqi security situation
The failure of US troops in Iraq has proven that Europe can rule out helping with military manpower.

"That is absolutely impossible," said Markus Kaim, European and Atlantic security expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. "The key issue is reinstalling Iraq's statehood, as government authority has no meaning in wide parts of the country."
The entire article here.


  1. "The key issue is reinstalling Iraq's statehood, as government authority has no meaning in wide parts of the country."

    Maliki's authority has little or no meaning in the Kurdish part of the country, but that does not mean the north is in chaos. In fact, about the only good thing to come out of the war so far is the fact that the Kurds are now free and at peace. Diplomats can talk all they want about a "One State Solution" but Kurdistan has already precipitated out of the mess in truth if not on paper, and the provinces are being stabilized by counter-insurgency tactics cooked up by Gen. Petraeus many moons ago. Only Baghdad remains in flux, and there's the nub, because there is so much intermarriage between Sunni and Shi'a, and so much blood has already been spilled, that only a short, sharp civil war with the attendant ethnic cleansing will sort it out. We don't have to cut and run from Iraq, but we can put a ring around Baghdad and contain the violence, and let them go at it.

  2. "One of the criticisms against the German police training, for example, was that it was too European," Schulte said. "They were training the police to patrol the streets like in a British, French or German suburb and it had nothing to do with the real situation of hard-boiled violence with a lot of arms in Iraq."

    But European nations could also play a part in other aspects of developing Iraq's statehood, according to Kaim.

    "In order to build up a legitimate state, Iraq also needs a tax system with financial income, it needs to develop a viable judicial system, and it needs economic well-being, Kaim said. "Europe can help with these aspects of good governance."

    Some of this bucks the conventional wisdom of recent: that security is not only a goal but a pre-requisite for success. That is, it is necessary but not sufficient for our strategic gain.

    But perhaps it also bucks the senses and feels of hopelessness and quagmire. If these more efficient tax systems, capital markets, financial services and judicial systems are relevant, doesn't that say something about their surrounding environment?

    Europe does seek to export its regulations, so maybe this is simply more of that. Is there an economic niche in Iraq that Europe can exploit with its regulatory burdens? What assets does Europe truly have that can be applied here? The article does not give much in the way of answers, least of all because the notion of "Europe" as an actor is chided.

    Improving policing would make sense, but what of all that service economy stuff? Is it just a hobnobbing offensive, seeking greater European centrality in Iraqi intrigues?


  3. TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- As I sat down recently with a senior Iranian government official, he urgently waved a column by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times in my face, one about how the United States and Iran need to engage each other.

    ''Natural allies,'' this official said.

    It was a surprising choice of words considering the barbs Washington and Tehran have been trading of late.

    "We are not after conflict. We are not after crisis. We are not after war," said this official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But we don't know whether the same is true in the U.S. or not. If the same is true on the U.S. side, the first step must be to end this vicious cycle that can lead to dangerous action -- war."

    He confided that what he was telling me was not shared by all in the Iranian government, but it was endorsed so high up in the religious leadership that he felt confident spelling out the rationale.

  4. From the article:
    In order to get any help, however, Washington will have to offer something in return.

    "We can be good partners, but we don't have to pay the price," Herd said. If Europe were to ask Iran for help, it will ask for something in return and the US will have to make those concessions, he said.

  5. Trish: How many national enemies are we down to? Five?

    1. Iran
    2. Syria
    3. Russia
    4. China
    5. Turkey
    6. France
    7. Venezuela
    8. North Korea
    9. Serbia

  6. Well this did not take long:

    UK pullout refuels anti-surge Democrats
    By Jon Ward
    February 21, 2007

    "Democrat leaders in Congress today quickly rebutted White House claims that the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq is a sign of progress, saying instead that it shows the president's plan to send more troops is "misguided."
    "Why are thousands of additional American troops being sent to Iraq at the same time that British troops are planning to leave?" said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat."

  7. That be Mr al-Hakim and Mr al-Sadr's different groups and representitives.

    Mr al-Hakim nominally holds the upper hand.

    The money of choice for payoffs, fees & day labor is Iranian.

    The airport being expanded by Iranian contractors and funding.
    The new AgBank that's opening, Iranian as well.

    So who do the Brits "hand off" to?

  8. It's well time to leave...

    The Iranian issue is not going away my friend. There is no escape; the Middle East is not Vietnam

  9. Bobalharb said, Might as well add all the other moslem countries and Venezuela too, T. Might throw in Mexico, too. Cuba? On and on.

    Kuwait is a friendly Muslim country. Mexico is virtually the 51st state, Bush and the neo-cons want to make going from Mexico to Texas as easy as driving from Kansas to Colorado. Cuba is so close to being our friend again they've booked a stadium in Miami for the celebrations.

  10. The Shiia rely on US troops for protection. Without that protection, they will have the excuse of calling the Iranians in. I think 20,000 troops in kurdistan is really all that's needed in Iraq. Help the Kurds clear Kirkuk, safeguard the oil fields there, and maintain a refueling stop for bomber jets.

    Then sit and watch things unfold..

  11. Elijah, I don't know what got into Trish. Your contributions here are well appreciated, at least by me.

  12. You are absolutely correct; there is no advocation of any attack utilizing large concentrations of conventional troops.

    They will come to us in Iraq, the world and on our shore. Hezbollah is more than capable.

    We do have friends.

    ...Apaches being shot down; I have heard and read that the MQ-9 Reapers are very capable

  13. Long, depressing read.

    Executive summary is less than 10 pages, though.

    Be interested in your opinion Trish.

  14. If you thought there was any doubt, here's proof in the pudding re: Maliki's letter.

  15. They're both brilliant guys.

    But I look at the above and wonder if, even accepting their caveats, they think we're supermen, Genghis Khan and Bismark wrapped into one. Whole 'we're the vanguard for global leadership' thing is a complete wash.

  16. Trish,
    Why is war with Iran such a bad thing?

  17. cutler, yep.

    "... If we cannot prevent such a full-scale civil war, then
    containment, as awful as it threatens to be, might still
    prove to be our least bad option. ..."

    Containment, with the IIRC on one side of the wire and the Sunni Bloc Peacekeepers on the other.

    The US urged by the authors not to "take sides"

  18. tubthumper...I've been called much worse

    bartender, another Maker's Mark on the rocks please

    my personality needs improvement

  19. Mətušélaḥ said...Why is war with Iran such a bad thing?

    Because we can barely scrape together 21,500 for a surge in Iraq, let alone a classic WWII-style tussle against a nation 1/4 of the size of the US in area and population.

  20. classic WWII-style tussle

    Heheh. Ok.

  21. It looks a lot bigger than it is.

    5-10 page executive summary, 40 page paper, 80 page appendix.

    On the other hand, lot of text/page.

  22. Sam, I have been thinking about that letter as well. You do not suppose that someone is trying to play to the American electorate and the vote that came and went in the Senate?

    I think more than a few people do not realize the impact of the Brits and now the Danes drawing down their forces from Iraq. There is a daily diminishment of US domestic support for this war in Iraq and no conceivable call for engagement with Iran. Does anyone remember the election results? Does anyone still buy Hugh Hewitt's book on painting the country a permanent red?

    People are missing the methodology of how this Administration works. There was a real campaign to garnish public and international support for the war against Iraq. UN, allies and domestic US support, were all vitally important. None of that is available today. That is over.

    Prior to the Iraq war the US was seen as omnipotent and a military hegemon. That is over.

    There is no one, unless they are delusional that believes the US military can handle another ground war, anywhere, let alone in Iraq and with masses of Iranian land troops.

    These little details matter. This Administration is looking for a way out. Period. It knows it is over.

  23. That Putin and Bush can get along on a personal level has little implication for policy. After the Munich conference, Putin went on a Middle East tour in an attempt to strengthen Russian influence in areas where the American approach has faltered.

    The United States, for its part, will actively strive to deter Russia from aiding and abetting Iran's nuclear ambitions, while NATO military installations in Eastern Europe will remain in place.

    Yet in 2008, both leaders will leave their respective posts, and candidates less inclined to amicable relations will be waiting on the sidelines. As those elections near, the rhetoric of confrontation will continue--whether in Munich, Moscow, or Washington.

    Honeymoon is Over

  24. Sounds like a good time.

    Not a war monger; just do not see any alternative. They have been at war with us for a long time

    Iran does not want total war with the United States; a WMD will ensure it, either in the middle east or here

  25. 2164th,

    Your 1st paragraph. Not sure I'm reading you but I'll take a stab at it. Are you saying that someone is Maliki? And he's saying to Sadr and co. to lay low until we leave? And once we're gone to come on back across the border then they'll go hell bent for leather at the Sunni's?

    Could be what he's thinking. Not sure.

  26. ...U.S. contingency plans for any U.S. attack goes beyond targeting atomic sites to include most of Iran's military infrastructure. With the bulk of the U.S. military currently tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan it would be unrealistic to imagine that any military engagement with Iran would resemble the conflict in Iraq. One might imagine that in the eventuality of a confrontation with the Islamic Republic the U.S. would want to restrict the fighting to heavy use of the Air Force, guided missiles and seaborne bombardments.

    The disadvantage of trying to win a war without committing ground troops by relying almost exclusively on superior air power was demonstrated last August when Lebanese Shiites of Hezbollah clashed with the Israeli army. Hezbollah dug in and waited for the infantry to arrive. That is when the real fighting began. In Iran's case the United States will certainly not commit its infantry. However, Iranian ground forces might well choose to cross the border into Iraq and confront American forces there, on what is almost home turf (for who?).

    A report prepared for the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research 12th annual conference by Anthony Cordesman of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies is looking closely at Iran's military capabilities.

    Cordesman pointed to five major kinds of current and potential threats posed by Iran.

    1. As a conventional military power Iran currently has limited capabilities. It could become more threatening if it was allowed to modernize its military components.

    2. Iran can pose an asymmetric threat using unconventional forces.

    3. Iran's capabilities to use proxies, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, strengthen its asymmetric power.

    4. Iran's potential to develop nuclear power armed long-range missiles.

    5. Iran's potential to promote religious and ideological feelings in the Islamic world could polarize even further the schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

  27. The Democrats' cheat-sheet on Murtha demands that it be shouted out: "He didn't take a bribe on tape!" That's their defense.

    There is not even a pretense that he didn't talk to Arabs about a bribe.

    He negotiated with a prostitute at the bar, but never consummated the deal. He's a saint!

    John Murtha: Caving in to Arabs Since 1980

  28. bellyaching and bitching...

    sounds like a good country song, with a steel guitar playing in the background; that's a succinct description of my communications here also

    what i believe matters little in the grand scheme of things

    but i do like visiting the bar from time to time

  29. you've convinced me
    - we should leave and everything will be super

  30. elijah,

    re: - we should leave and everything will be super


    What do you make of this? "The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth—that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

  31. "What future possibility could be more terrible than the reality of what is happening to Cambodia now?"
    -Anthony Lewis, New York Times, March 17th, 1975.

  32. elijah,

    I probably don't need to qualify my last post to you, but for those who may be confused, I know you were kidding about the bug out "plan".

  33. Mencken seems prophetic

    February 22, 2007
    ...Walsh said the increase in US firepower in the Gulf region aims to reassure Arab allies in the Gulf and prevent misunderstandings that could escalate into outright conflict.

    Walsh, who departs his command of the Fifth Fleet this month to become vice chief of naval operations at the Pentagon, the Navy's No. 2 post, said the Navy was responding to “more instability than we’ve seen in years” in the Fifth Fleet’s region. He listed conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, tensions in Lebanon and the standoff with Iran and its increasing "provocations." Iranian vessels, he said, have been making "probing" incursions into Iraqi waters.

    Regarding a possible US Navy attack if a multi-casualty incident in Iraq was traced back to Tehran, Walsh said he could not to discuss the Navy's rules of engagement, but added, "There are events on land that can spill over onto the sea."

    ...US poll: Israel alone named vital friend

    Gallup poll places Israel as only country majority of Americans both view favorably and see as important. Iraq most unfavorable but most important while only 9 percent view Iran as favorable

  34. "What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one."

    ...Iraq is not the first campaign in history to have things go wrong. During the American Civil War, Union generals in the East were known for varying degrees of inaction or incompetence, until George Meade took over in 1863. Even then, the Union did not see success until Ulysses S. Grant was placed in command in 1864. In 1942, the American campaign at Guadalcanal got off to a spectacularly ugly start with the battle of Savo Island, in which over a thousand Allied sailors were killed. In 1943, the North African battle of Kasserine Pass revealed defects in American training. That same year, the invasion of Tarawa went horribly wrong due to poorly-planned pre-invasion air and naval bombardments. The following year, 1944, not only featured the Battle of the Bulge (a major intelligence failure), but also the successful decoying of American naval units during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Both Korea and Vietnam also featured instances where things did not go as planned. Iraq is just the latest war where this has happened. The same will happen in future wars.

  35. Elijah, I do not think you can compare the goals. In the Pacific, the US was Fighting a direct enemy that attacked the US and the goal was to defeat the enemy, the Japanese.

    Iraq did not attack the US. Sunni Arabs from Saudi did.

    If the US had retaliated against Saudi Arabia and killed a million or two and took their oil for retribution, burned down their Madrassas and killed a few thousand" spiritual leaders", and it cost the US a division or two, there would not be much of a problem. Americans are not afraid to kill or die for a good reason.

    No one can define to the satisfaction of the average American that a worthwhile goal is being fought for in Iraq. that is the problem.

  36. What's the difference between the Sunnis in Iraq and those of Saudi Arabia? If anything, the Iraq war proved that they are pretty much one and the same.