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Cole was in for considerable criticism for his above standpoint. (Admirably, he quoted some on his own blog - for example, this one.) To summarise the criticisms, there are three basic problems with his argument:

  1. he assumes as solution just what he discounted: if the US gets everything wrong, and follows its own misguided interests in Iraq, how would it not get the prevention of civil war (by way of giving over to the UN or by itself) wrong? In fact, upon closer inspection, it already got that wrong: the civil war is already ongoing, and the US and British soldiers on the ground don't do much to limit it - they are busy fighting opposition to their own presence. (Kurdish expansion, Sunni Muslim terrorism, Sadrist takeover in Amarah, inter-Shi'a war in Basrah, and so on.)

  2. The potential deeper disaster after eventual pullout can't be averted, but the policies that "have made things progressively worse" can make this unavoidable deeper disaster worse, too. (Whenever you hear about strenghtening local forces, think of that: these moves end up pushing that process through the Kurdish and Shi'a sides, and add firepower to the future fighters in it.)

  3. The UN route he suggests is unrealistic, for several reasons. One, he is too optimistic about various states' willingness to enter the Iraqi mess. (Europe, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and some others each would have their domestic problems with that.) Second, even if he hadn't, he underestimates the number of troops these states could realistically send, vs the need in the present situation (not 100,000, not 250,000, but one million). Three, even would that not be, he ignores the question of whether these troops are well enough armed and well enough trained for such a difficult mission. Fourth, even if that wouldn't be the case, he underestimates Iraqi's rejection of any foreign occupation, despite polls and other evidence he himself quotes. (In fact, fifth, he suggests continued US presence - as air support; now that would not be something to convince Iraqis that the UN acts independently.)

This is not Cambodia in the nineties, not battle-weary and widely hated followers of a deposed dictator entering a peace accord letting the UN in, but a hot new conflict that includes foreign occupation and a large number of militias (not just Sunni Arab ones, and not just anti-US ones) with strong local support.

Finally, along with the scholar in the linked critique, I deeply resent the oil argument. (BTW, if asdf is reading: Cole would be an example for your 'honest American crazyness', however, the average American supporter on the Iraq war is in deep denial and points to WMD, freedom, democracy and whatnot.) If political upheaval elsewhere is so bad for our economy, we should lower our oil imports, hence our consumption, rather than go killing for someone else's property.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 22nd, 2005 at 04:33:28 PM EST
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