Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Some Saving Grace in Iraq

Thomas Friedman’s recent article of July 1st (available via New York Times pay-per-view on-line) calling for US commitment in Iraqi Kurdistan is not the first time we’ve heard about such a proposal. Unfortunately, this commonsense approach seems almost too practical and unpopular in today’s Washington. Friedman explains:

Nothing could justify the staggering cost of the Iraq war anymore, but if we could get one decent example implanted in the neighborhood, even a small one, at least it wouldn’t be a total loss. The example set by little, progressive, modernizing, globalizing Dubai has had a big impact on other countries in the Gulf. A thriving, progressive Kurdistan could do the same. If such an example doesn’t make Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites come to their senses, it will at least be a mirror that shows them every day how utterly wasteful, senseless and self-destructive their civil war is.

I recently overhead a conversation at a party here in DC between a returned Iraq Conflict veteran and two Hill staffers. The staffers claimed they worked for representatives who were very anti-war. Among other truly asinine questions (such as, Did you see any dead bodies?), they did ask the veteran his take on what needed to be done over there. The veteran simply replied, “Something radical.” He explained that either a million troops were put on the ground to control the situation (which he said might already be too late) or the US completely pulled out. "Everywhere that is, except in Iraqi Kurdistan."

For the same reasons Friedman spelled out in his op-ed, Dog Paddling in the Tigris, other, lower-level experts with knowledge of the realities on the ground have all been calling for the need to seriously engage Iraqi Kurdistan. Why then has our government been so out of touch, asked the staffers? The veteran said perhaps because no one wanted to be responsible for saying the whole adventure was a failure.

Why then not move our efforts to the one place in Iraq that strongly desires US involvement, that practices any inkling of democracy, that has more women and minorities in its government than the federal equivalent in Baghdad (and for that matter, probably the US as well), and that is crying for US private sector investment?

I'd like to believe admitting the truth on the ground and adjusting our strategy (something the US has been unwilling to do on many levels and on both sides of the issue) does not have to mean we've completely lost Iraq. After all, we can continue to debate the dubious reasons why we entered into this mess in the first place, but that won't change the fact that we've got a serious problem on our hands. Perhaps, instead, we can try to find some saving grace from this whole misadventure in Iraqi Kurdistan.


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