Bush's Intelligence

Here’s today’s big story (unless, of course, on tonight’s newscast, Dan Rather gives his hands the OCD Lava-soap-and-Brill-O-Pad-treatment while screaming, “Out, damn spot!”):

The Bush administration has sought to downplay the significance of a U.S. intelligence forecast painting a pessimistic picture for the future of Iraq, insisting that predictions of difficulties ahead — including the possibility of civil war — were not a surprise.

Sources have confirmed to CNN that a National Intelligence Estimate was sent to the White House in July with a classified warning predicting the best case for Iraq was “tenuous stability” and the worst case was civil war.

The Bush administration, however, continues to argue publicly the U.S. is making good progress in Iraq, with the President saying Thursday that “freedom is on the march” in Iraq, citing scheduled elections in January next year.

As usual, there’s truth on both sides.

Did Bush & Co. downplay (or publicly ignore) the threat of civil war? Of course they did. So did Germany when they were the first to encourage and recognize Croatian independence back in ’91. You do the right thing, and hope you don’t get burned. I talked about the civil war threat (or worse) briefly before and after the Iraq War, but didn’t pay it too much attention. I read history for a hobby – talking about the risk of a civil war after a war is almost as obvious as talking about the “possibility” of casualties during it.

The danger isn’t the guerilla wars aren’t winnable, as this chart (lifted from Jim Dunnigan) shows:

Conflict / Period / Victor
Greek Civil War 1944-49 Government
Spanish Insurgency 1944-52 Government
Chinese Civil War 1945-49 Insurgents
Indochina War 1945-54 Insurgents
Iranian Communists 1945-46 Government
Philippine Huk War 1946-54 Government
Madagascar Revolt 1947-49 Government
Korean Partisan War 1948-53 Government
Malayan Emergency 1948-60 Government
Kenyan Mau-Maus 1952-55 Government
Cuban Revolution 1956-58 Insurgents
Sarawak/Sabah 1960-66 Government

However, if you’ll look at the dates, you’ll notice that each anti-guerilla campaign took years. The shortest insurgency (Iran’s postwar Communists) was defeated quickly, but Islamic countries never were fertile ground for Soviet-style communism. Soviet tanks, sure, but not outright communism. In other words, we face a long battle in Iraq – and that’s the danger.

If we leave Iraq unfinished – whether it takes three years or a dozen – then we will have thrown away our first, last and best chance at creating the first decent nation-state in the Arab World. We’ll have torn up the Game Plan. Do Americans have the patience to finish the job?

If we make that mistake, you’d better believe, it will come back to bite us on the ass. Bush seems – seems – to understand that. Kerry doesn’t. And I’m not sure the folks who wrote the NIE understand it, either.


One comment was so good that it (and my reply) ought to be made part of the main post. Josh writes:

I’ve often wondered this… why isn’t Iraq divided into seperate states? It seems that our Confederation of seperate states has worked pretty well so far. Since Iraq is a country where there are dozens of different warring parties, did they ever consider a plan like that?

If you laugh to yourself while reading this post, delete it and save me the shame.

I replied:

I’m not laughing, not in the slightest.

I argued last year (or was it 2002? It’s too late to look up the link), that a multiethnic, democratic Iraq could be just the thing to start some positive trends in the Middle East.

On the other hand, no less an authority than Ralph Peters (forget his chest-thumping NY Post columns, and read his stuff for Parameters), argues that the best hope for the people of Iraq is partition. Three states, centered on Mosul (Kurdistan), Baghdad (for Sunnis), and Basra (for Shias).

The longer the insurgency continues, the more sense partition makes. Problem is, the bespoke-shoes boys at the State Department would never stand for it. (Neither would the UN – although State is a far greater obstacle than the idiots on the East River.)

Which means there’s another danger I should have addressed in the original post, but failed to. Namely, that political infighting in the Executive Branch (State vs Pentagon vs White House) could also ruin our chances of making things right.

Can we do it? Can we set things right? I said it before the Iraq War and I’ll say it again: I don’t know – but I do know we have to at least try.


Man, those latenight blogging sessions can lead to some silly errors. East River, not the Hudson. I knew that, but I blame the martinis.