Friday, September 24, 2004

SO MUCH FOR STRATEGY

By William Fisher

Sometimes, the most astonishing statements are made in the US Congress, and disappear under the radar, completely unnoticed by press or public.

One such was made by Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage before the House Subcommittee on Operations last week.

It is worth repeating.

Mr. Armitage was being questioned by a committee member on some of the Bush Administration’s un-planned missteps in Iraq.

One such misstep, Mr. Armitage volunteered, was that the US was not aware of, and was wrong-footed by, the ‘tribal influences’ in that country.

This admission of error – one of the few the Administration makes these days – is truly astonishing. How can it be true?

The US State Department, the Pentagon, and many other agencies of the American government, have access to literally hundreds of experts on Iraq. To the best minds in the world on this subject. To their own staffs. To scholars steeped in the history and customs of the country. To Thinktanks without limit.

Did it ask for expert opinion? Or did it ask and then not listen? Well, we’ll probably never know.

What we do know is this: If you asked a junior high school class to write a paper on Iraq, most of the students’ submissions would contain references to the tribes of Iraq. Not because they’re all so brilliant, but because most of them have access to the Internet, and a simple Internet search would have told you much more than you wanted to know about tribes in Iraq.

Let’s try it. Go to Google. Enter ‘Iraq Tribes’. The first three references are: ‘The Iraqi Tribes and the Post-Saddam System’, ‘Definition of Arab Tribes in Iraq’, and ‘Iraqi Tribes Are Key Source of Loyalty, Rebellion’. These are three of the 230,000 results of this simple search.

How often during the reign of Proconsul Paul Bremer did we hear about ‘tribes’ ? We heard about Sunnis, about Shias, about Kurds, occasionally about Turkomen, even less often about Assyrians or the many other minorities within Iraq.

But we never learned that these Iraqi tribes – huge families bonded by tradition and inter-marriage – are a central part of the social fabric of Iraq, that they exist within all these major religious groupings, that they frequently straddle Shia and Sunni, and that they are at least as important and influential as the larger groups to which they belong.

As far as I am aware, Prime Minister Allawi was the first person who ever mentioned tribes in prime time: During his visit to the White House, he talked about the conversations he was having with tribal as well as religious leaders, and their participation in the political process. Mr. Allawi knows all about tribes because he is a member of one – as is every other Iraqi. None of them signed up to belong to a tribe; they were members by birth.

Before the US invasion of Iraq, the State Department had undertaken an ambitious project to plan for ‘the day after Saddam’. It brought together some of the best of Iraqi thinking on a broad range of subjects, from education to politics to the role of woman in society. In the end, the plan was rejected by the Department of Defense, which believed it unnecessary because US troops would be greeted as liberators and the barrels of their guns would be filled with flowers.

US failure to even recognize, much less deal with, the role of tribes in shaping Iraqi attitudes and behavior is a measure of the bankruptcy of American policy and strategy.














3 comments:

  1. Excellent piece. Armitage is one of the few remaining straight-talkers in the Bush Administration.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice blog. Have you seen your google rating? BlogFlux It's Free and you can add a Little Script to your site that will tell everyone your ranking. I think yours was a 3. I guess you'll have to check it out.

    In the news today.

    Congress and the Bush administration want seriously degrade organic standards. The word organic will no longer carry
    any value if we let them.

    Stop the Sneak Attack in Congress on Organic Standards

    Congress will vote on this issue soon!

    Use below link, read more and then use link within this
    article to send email to your Congresspersons.

    http://www.organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm

    =============================================
    Download RPG Now!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Here's an example of why people succeed in fail. These new ideas in changing the way people think. These ideas are shaping people's lives. I'm writing to you today to see. Arrested in changing your life by using goal techniques. I have spent a lot of my life working and listening to other people complain about things they think they have no control over such as their lives. Using modern goal techniques you can change your life today. You can start living a life you've always wanted to live.. I have found a site that is very helpful and has helped me change my life forever. If you're interested in changing your life today visit this site and you'll see what I'm talking about http://slydt.com I am living proof that life will change on the outside when you change which you think on the inside. I would be writing this today if I thought the way I used to think. Thank you for letting me post on your blog I hope this information will help other people change the way they think and start living a good life. Thanks again

    ReplyDelete