Giving Peace a Chance

The old John Lennon song begged that we should “give peace a chance.”

The noise generated in the United States over the issue of “amnesty” for insurgent fighters in Iraq who may have killed or wounded American soldiers makes it sound as though a lot of us are not willing to give peace a chance.

Iraq’s Prime Minister, al-Maliki has constructed an offer to the non-Jihadi insurgent groups which proposes their re-integration into Iraqi society. They have responded with a counter-offer that revolves around a two year time table for the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq. In return for that they offer a complete cease fire on the part of all guerrilla forces under their control. In my opinion an agreement like that would isolate the Jihadis and permit their extermination by coalition and Iraqi forces, some of which might be found among the parties on both sides of this dialog .

Some people in the United States find this possibility for peace to be unacceptable because the insurgents whom al-Maliki is negotiating with have been fighting American soldiers. The reasoning is that those insurgents are criminals and perhaps murderers and that they must receive criminal justice for their crimes.

This is a truly stupid attitude. It is true that the propaganda that has supported the war effort had described the insurgents as uniformly Jihadist and terrorist. The same propaganda has described them as criminals. This may have been useful in shaping public opinion in the United States over the last three years, but it is no longer useful. The coalition now confronts the need to assist the al-Maliki government in bringing together enough of the disparate factions in Iraq to build itself a support base which will enforce and maintain a peace that will justify the sacrifices soldiers have made in the war.

The United States has rarely, if ever, taken the position that mere service in war against itself constituted criminal behavior. In a few instances after World War II individuals were held accountable and punished for their personal culpability in “crimes against humanity,” “planning and waging aggressive war,” etc., but this sanction was not applied to the men who served in the ranks. Indeed, very senior officers were held blameless for their participation in the struggle.

It is axiomatic that peace must be made with enemies, not friends. If Iraqi insurgents who have fought and perhaps killed Iraqi and coalition soldiers are excluded from the possibility of reconciliation and amnesty, then who will be left to make peace with? The answer is simple. No one. That would mean that the war will go on and on and on. In that case it would prove impossible to withdraw coalition forces for a long time.

It should be obvious that the al-Maliki government would not have made this offer of amnesty and “national reconciliation” if it believed that it will be able to suppress the insurgencies by force of arms.

Pat Lang

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19 Responses to Giving Peace a Chance

  1. Jerry Thompson says:

    1. You make peace with your enemies, not your friends. That’s all there is to it. Think of Japanese and German atrocities against our troops, and the Vietnamese (where’s &*(^% McCain!?). That said, there is a “devil in the details” aspect to any amnesty — it has to be respected. Which leads to the second point …
    2. We simply must give up the insane illusion that we have the ability to control the outcome in Iraq. This is the essential, first point on which the original regime change concept foundered. This is now the elected government of Iraq — this amnesty is al-Maliki’s show. We can talk, we can pressure, we may even apply “leverage” (though time and again we’ve proven unable/ unwilling to do so) but if al-Malike wants to do an amnesty, he will do an amnesty. We can support him and help him make it effective — and, as a consequence, maybe enhance his legitimacy and maybe Iraqi government stability and maybe move toward “end state” — or, we can piss down our own leg and continue to stomp around complaining of the odor. The idea that we SHOULD have a veto on this initiative is itself insane. The idea that we DO have a veto is total self-delusion.

  2. Eric says:

    Thanks Col. Lang and all.
    I always come here to get an appreciation of the situation, when I get confused.
    Course I’m not confused at all on this issue at all. With you 100% on this one colonel.
    You folks all have a happy 4th.

  3. the cyber ruffian says:

    Yes, of course we must make peace with our enemy, if it is peace that we want. But I suppose that the administration will manipulate the understandable outrage among some Americans about amnesty for people who may have killed US troops in order to kill any initiative that might actually shorten the occupation.

  4. Curious says:

    The fact that we are having this conversation (What the Iraqi is doing in their own backyard and whether we like it or not) says everything about the fundamental problem in Iraq.
    -Our Interest and the interest of Iraqis don’t intersect most of the time.
    -And we gonna do what we suppose to do, defending our interest over theirs.
    -There aren’t many smart people who can balance those. In the end whatever Iraqi government we are building is not seen as somebody who defends public interest by the Iraqis. So support collapse and things turn to powder keg again.
    … And things haven’t turned into total worst case scenario yet when we have to sort out regional conflicts. In which most likely we are going to stand against the entire regional public opinion.
    PS. It’s halfway through summer. in the past we are at the peak of fubarness that will lead to more fubar stuffs around early winter.

  5. searp says:

    COL Lang is right, he is almost always right, but I think there is a more important issue.
    Amnesty, etc. only creates another seat at the table for the real work, divvying up power. Every party to this negotiation operates armed militias, and nobody has shown a reluctance to bargain through force of arms.
    So: assume the amnesty mostly works. Does this change the facts on the ground enough so that we can declare victory, come home, and reasonably expect a stable government in Iraq that is either pro-Western or neutral? If not, what the hell are we attempting to accomplish?
    Forget the amnesty, when do we know we have a victory, and what is the plan for obtaining it?

  6. Sonoma says:

    From unleashing this war with Big Lies “useful in shaping public opinion in the United States”; to assurances of being met with roses strewn at our feet, “useful in shaping public opinion in the United States”; the Bushites and their bipartisan collaborators are now reduced to condoning the slaughter of the patriots they sent in harms way.
    The mountains of our national wealth, too, will be calculated as burnt offerings upon the altar of Iraq sovereignty. A sovereignty, needless to say, they enjoyed prior to our invasion.
    Those who engineered this great betrayal have rendered themselves infamous in the history of our Republic. This catastrophic, unmitigated disaster will one day be studied with a sense of incredulity at their unvarnished treachery, and at the willfull blindness of a free people who allowed it to unfold.

  7. Green Zone Cafe says:

    Amnesty for the Ba’athists/nationalist insurgents, I’m down with that.
    Still, it looks like the only ones who will do any time out of this CF are Pvt. Lynndie England, Granier, and the rest of the Sad Sacks who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to play scapegoat.

  8. Eric says:

    Long, long history on that one, sadly.

  9. confusedponderer says:

    I’ll be generalising and stereotyping a bit:
    The problem Americans seem to have with the amnesty is probably a result of the portrait of (a) US efforts as to be in the best interest of those invaded (not to mention that it is a noble cause no matter what and where and who is invaded) and (b) the portrait of US troops as martyrs.
    There’s nothing special about hardball politics for national interest. Everyone does it. The french have their mining interests in Niger, so they keep their thumb on Niger. Their ‘mission civilisatrice’, however, painfully ended in Algeria.
    The US have their interests like everyxone else, they pursue them ruthlessly like everyone else, but persistently talk themselves into having a ‘mission civilisatrice’ – the spreading of democracy, liberty and free market liberalism, and that this is the sole reason why they meddle – they are not like the cynical french. A byproduct of this is the refusal of an amnesty for the insurgents.
    By refusing to share the American point of view the insurgents commit the original sin of blasphemy. For this, they shall burn at the stake.

  10. confusedponderer says:

    Thinking about it … ‘ruthlessly like everyone else’ is, as a result of the greater amount of power, not so much as a result of some more nefarious intent, probably in fact ‘even more so’.

  11. Patrick Kennedy says:

    “This is a truly stupid attitude. It is true that the propaganda that has supported the war effort had described the insurgents as uniformly Jihadist and terrorist. The same propaganda has described them as criminals. This may have been useful in shaping public opinion in the United States over the last three years, but it is no longer useful.”
    We are 4 months away from the 2006 elections. President Bush and his administration are the authors of this propaganda. It is hard to see them backing away from the language they have used for years. What Democratic politician is going to stand up to this stupidity and risk being attacked by the Republicans? And the Republicans would attack them. Amnesty may be an important element of a political solution in Iraq but our politicians won’t let that get in the way of 2006 election politics in this country.

  12. Curious says:

    So: assume the amnesty mostly works. Does this change the facts on the ground enough so that we can declare victory, come home, and reasonably expect a stable government in Iraq that is either pro-Western or neutral? If not, what the hell are we attempting to accomplish?
    Posted by: searp | 30 June 2006 at 04:48 PM
    I don’t think the question of if the soldiers are coming home is a function of situation in Iraq. That is a function of Bushco/Senate/rightwing think tanks. They decide to occupy Iraq permanently and that’s that.
    A lot of people are still under the illusion that Iraq is some sort of “fix it” project. Well it ain’t. We have permanent base, the power base that support Iraq occupations are in power and will be in power for a long time. We have plenty of resource for such occupation projects (a decade at least)
    Look at the big equipments/ facilities, long term supply contracts, budgetary policy, the people and political infrastructure that supports it.. They are all there and all point to long term occupations.
    I for one am from the school, less BS leads to better analysis and ultimately lead to less dead people. So let’s call it like it is. Occupation. All of our behavior so far is consistent with the goal of creating a condition of occupying a country, not fixing it.
    There is nothing noble in Iraq endeavor. It’s plain lying, stealing, killing, and doing something we are not suppose to do. No need to use contrite idea such as “spreading democracy” or what not. Cause the world isn’t buying it anymore. (did you see anybody joining our loafty goals? .. there ya go…)
    what’s more, this is a botched heist job. The people who originally think up this scheme doesn’t know what to do next. Hence the fubar situation.

  13. ali says:

    Watching this war I’ve often had the impression that for the executive the main theatre is not in Iraq. It’s been a war for the hearts of the Red-States it will remain so.
    Are the Red-States ready for the concept of a bitter peace without the absolute victory they were promised? I think not. Amnesty and a timetable for an American retreat might offer some hope of stability in Iraq but how do you dress that up and sell it to the GOP base? I think that is beyond the powers of even Karl Rove.

  14. ikonoklast says:

    Patrick Kennedy asks who “will stand up to this stupidity and risk being attacked by the Republicans?” Count out the senior senator from Michigan:
    “For heaven’s sake, we liberated that country, we got rid of a horrific dictator, we’ve paid a tremendous price, more than 2,500 Americans have given up their lives,” said [Democratic Senator Carl] Levin. “The idea that they should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have killed people who liberated their country is unconscionable.” (Fox News Sunday)
    It’s hard to even contemplate the cynicism – the naivete? – a muddled combination of both? – displayed in the above statement. And this from an opposition leader on the Armed Forces Commitee. The proseletyzing impulse of the American character knows no bounds, just as Bush consistently uses the word “mission,” with its dual sense of military and religious obligation, to justify our involvement. In any event, hudna is apparently out for the time being.
    If you can’t start to make common cause with the enemy, and you can’t defeat them, you can’t achieve victory, or even sell the illusion of it to the US audience. If you won’t allow the elected government to take steps to “stand up so we can stand down” they’ll never be able to stand up. If you can’t convince the UN, EU, the Arab League, or anyone else to help, you’re on your own. And if you won’t “cut and run” until you win, then you’re there forever. (Or until 2008, when it becomes the problem of another administration.) It’s beyond stupidity. Meanwhile Iraq bleeds.
    So to win, apparently all we need to do is change the belief systems, values, religions, and heritage of the multiple factions warring for control of the region. Or kill them all. Hopefully no one believes these goals are attainable or even desirable.
    The easiest way out, then, would be to paint the Iraqis as ingrates, barbarians, and wash our hands of them. An echo of the ignorant anti-civil rights arguments from the 1960’s – they’re just not ready for democracy and elections yet. We’ve used the argument that we’re guiding the poor unfortunates towards the light as a reason to keep fighting, so it would probably work as an excuse for leaving as well.
    It looks like Mr. Levin is right on track with this weasle strategy of defining either remaining or withdrawing as fundamental to America’s mission. After all, anything is preferable to looking at yourself, your actions, and your own cultural conditioning. Peace? I guess we’re not ready for that.

  15. Curious says:

    Watching this war I’ve often had the impression that for the executive the main theatre is not in Iraq. It’s been a war for the hearts of the Red-States it will remain so.
    Posted by: ali | 01 July 2006 at 12:09 PM
    Well duh…
    for eg. the Zarqawi propaganda, who are they for? It only being played at FoxNews. Red states audiance only. Nobody else in the world take that one seriously. (which is pretty hilarious come to think of it. The Pentagon is still playing the theater and think they have audiance. I mean…really…what’s the point of propaganda if nobody believes it? … talking about military budget surplus.)
    I seriously want to know who the clowns in charge of making up that lousy script. .. amazing.
    How much tho these people get paid anyway? (including the kick back and grease money of course)

  16. mike says:

    It is an Iraqi issue. It does not matter what we say or do.
    Of course, Bush can try to sabotage it (or try) by refusing to accept the two-year timetable for withdrawal.
    The big “what-if” question is what would the Iraqi government and the mullahs then do if Bush tried to install a puppet in place of Maliki, and what would be the price in blood our in-country troops would have to pay.

  17. drouse says:

    Not to make a long thing of it but, this is how people end up fighting over things that happened 1300 years ago.

  18. confusedponderer says:

    The redstates bit is indeed the key. That is what I tried to point to, not sure if I succeeded.
    The problem is this peculiar gung-ho mindset that knows only us and them-who-are-against-us. Walter Russel Mead iirc dubbed them the Jacksonians.
    I last read it to be referred to as the ‘warrior’ mindset. I think the folks described are these angry white men who watch FOX and who the GOP sees as an important part of their base.
    The definition of this so-called ‘warrior’ reads as follows:
    “(The Warrior) by nature is unsuited for modern wars. He doesn’t understand them, can’t adapt to them.
    The Warrior is emotionally suited to pitched, Pattonesque battles of moral clarity and simple intent. I don’t mean that he is stupid…. Yet emotionally the Warrior has the uncomplicated instincts of a pit bull. Intensely loyal to friends and intensely hostile to the enemy, he doesn’t want any confusion as to which is which. His tolerance for ambiguity is very low. He wants to close with the enemy and destroy him…. This works in wars like WWII…. It does not work when winning requires the support of the population. The Warrior, unable to see things through the eyes of the enemy, or of the local population, whom he quickly comes to hate, wants to blow hell out of things. He detests all that therapeutic crap, that touchy-feely leftist stuff about respect the population, especially the women. Having the empathy of an engine block, he regards mention of mutilated children as intensely annoying at best, and communist propaganda at worst.
    On the net these men sometimes speak approvingly to each other of the massacre at My Lai. Hey, they were all Cong. If they weren’t, they knew who the Cong were and didn’t tell us. Calley did the right thing, taught them a lesson. There is an admiration of Calley for having avoided bureaucratic rules of engagement probably dreamed up by civilians. War is war. You kill people. Deal with it.
    If you point out that collateral damage (dead children, for example) makes the survivors into murderously angry Viet Cong, the Warrior thinks that you are a lefty tree-hugger.
    Today, the battlefield as understood by the enemy, but seldom by the Warrior, extends far beyond the physical battlefield, and the chief targets are political. In this kind of war, if America can get the local population to support it, the insurgents are out of business; if the insurgents can get the American public to stop supporting the war, the American military is out of business. This is what counts. It is what works. The Warrior, all oooh-rah and jump wings, doesn’t get it. Vo Nguyen Giap got it. Ho Chi Minh got it.
    Thus the furious, embittered insistence of Warriors that “We won Tet of ’68. We slaughtered them! We won, dammit! Militarily, we absolutely won!” Swell, but politically they lost. It was a catastrophe on the order of Kursk or Dien Bien Phu. But they can’t figure it out.
    The warrior doesn’t understand what “victory” means because he thinks in terms of firefights, courage, weaponry, and valor. His approach is emotional, not rational….
    However, the Warrior does not grant the public the right to grow weary. For him, America exists to support the military, not the other way around. Are two hundred dead a week coming back from Asia? The Warrior believes that small-town America (which is where the coffins usually go) should grit its teeth, bear down, and make the sacrifice for the country. Sacrifice for what? It doesn’t matter. We’re at war, dammit. Rally ‘round. What are you, a commy?
    To the Warrior, to doubt the war is treason, aiding and supporting, liberalism, cowardice, back-stabbing, and so on. He uses these phrases unrelentingly. We must fight, and fight, and fight, and never yield, and sacrifice and spend. We must never ask why, or whether, or what for, or do we want to. ”
    I guess the author got it right in his peculiar way.

  19. Blue Force says:

    Pat Lang: Give Peace a Chance

    Pat Lang has a great follow up to his piece on amnesty for Iraq Insurgents, which I wrote about here, and which serves as a nice compliment to Paul’s pieces on the Iraq War debate. Pat notes the stupidity of those who shriek “no amnesty,” who lack both lo

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