Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why settle for an imitation?

Oct.16 2006

Why settle for duplicate?

AGAINST increasing talk about plans for a US-endorsed "coup" in Baghdad in order to replace Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki with a Saddam Hussein-style "strongman" to handle the worsening crisis in Iraq, US President George W Bush has reassured Maliki that he would not set a timetable for withdrawal of troops and would continue to support him. That assurance sound rather hollow when seen against the reality that the US could not count on Maliki to control the situation and Bush would have to consider various options in order to check the crisis from growing worse.
Suggestions are rife among experts in American strategies and policies that the Bush administration is looking for a "strongman" in Iraq who should be as ruthless as any other dictator to apply an "iron-fist" approach to put an end to the raging insurgency in the country.
It might not be difficult to find such a man. However, Washington should be finding it bitter to swallow the reality that it has no choice but to abandon its goal of bringing "democracy" to Iraq and return the country to square one — an autocracy similar to the Saddam Hussein regime. It also means calling off all talk about a "new Middle East," and admitting that the Bush administration's policies have failed wholesale and retail in Iraq.
Washington might not have a choice except to admit failure in Iraq, critics say, because the reality has dawned that the US military would never be able to claim victory against the insurgents. Not only that, it has also become clear that the US would only get deeper into the Iraqi imbroglio as every day passes by without effectively putting an end to the sectarian killings that average 100 a day.
The insurgency in Iraq is destined to get worse. A recent National Intelligence Estimate states: "The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause célèbre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world, and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."
The catch is how to bring about a "transition" at the helm of power in Baghdad given that there are elected representatives of the people in power in Iraq who into being under the initiative of the very same US administration which is now said to be seeking a way to have an autocrat to take the reins.
Different Iraqi groups have tasted power for the first time in their existence and they would fight tooth and nail against any move to deprive them of their newfound authority and clout. First and foremost among those to resist the idea would be the Shiites, who, by virtue of their majority in the population, are today in charge of key affairs of the state.
That is where the rumours of an impending "coup" in Baghdad come into play. Critics accuse the Bush administration of spreading the rumours ahead of actually stage-managing a coup and imposing on the Iraqis a dictator more brutal and ruthless than Saddam Hussein himself.
That the talk about the purported plan is growing and spreading among American strategists, analysts, observers, military experts and media indicates that someone, somewhere in a position that matters should have considered it and discussed it.
The proposal, according to those who propogate it, involves replacing the current government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki with a five-member panel includinge top Iraqi military officers and headed by an Iraqi who could be relied upon to reinstate a Saddam-style regime in all but name. The proposed five-man "ruling commission" will suspend parliament, declare martial law, and call back some officers of the old Iraqi army" and follow a "shoot-first" policy throughout the country.
Indeed, there are many if and buts that make the proposal preposterous and unconvincing. Perhaps it could even be a trial balloon being floated to test the waters and there might be no substance wahtsover to it.
At the same time, the general assumption is that the US is desparate to find a way out of the Iraq crisis and therefore it is ready consider any idea, however wild and impossible it might sound.
If indeed that is the level of bankruptcy of ideas prevalent in the corridors of power in Washington over how to deal with Iraq, then the total collapse and disintegration of Iraq as a state is not far into the future.
And, if indeed the US is inclined to restore a Saddam-style regime in Baghdad as a way out of the crisis, Washington does not have to look for an imitation — the original is very much available and that too in US custody awaiting his fate.