“Sunni Arabs will vote no.”

"Now Sunni Arab leaders were gearing up to try to veto the constitution at the ballot box.  "With this result, the Sunni Arabs will be able to defeat the constitution, if there is honesty and an international supervision on the process," al-Mutlaq said. "I am sure if there is honesty, 95 percent of Sunni Arabs will vote no."  Yahoo

Whetber the Bush Administration realizes it or not, the best chance it has to salvage its position in Iraq lies in defeat of the constitutional proposal in the referendum this month.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the reason for this conclusion is compelling.  The administration has refused for two and a half years to accept the basic truth that the Sunni insurgencies that afflict the country receive widespread support from the Sunni Arab population in the form of logistics, concealment, transportation, intelligence, etc.  Recently government spokesmen have begun to sound as though they might be learning that this is true.  I am sure that Ambassador Khalilzad is too sophisticated not to understand this and his recent actions in Baghdad in attempting to have the Shia government modify the constitution in favor of the Sunni Arabs show this.

The Sunni Arabs are supporting the insurgencies because they are unwilling to accept the radical re-distribution of power and wealth on the basis of "one man, one vote" that we are sponsoring.  Why are we doing that?  It is because we believe, deeply, that justice in voting rights for INDIVIDUALS produces government that embodies a "National Compact" that is accepted by all.  The Middle East is not like that.  In the Middle East people self-identify in a number of ways, only one of which is at the level of the individual.   More importantly, people there predominately see themselves as members of COMMUNITIES of various kinds whether they be ethno-religious, tribal, clan, regional or just plain family.  A system that strips an indivdual’s community of power and wealth is inevitably going to be seen as HOSTILE and to be defeated.

On Fox News today a former Assistant Secretary of the Army said that political accomodation would not produce an acceptable result in Iraq and that the solution lies in unlimited application of force against the Sunni Arab population until "they give up" supporting the guerrillas.   As appalling as this idea is, it has to be acknowledged that an unlimited application of force sometimes produces this result.  I could give examples in the history of counterinsurgency warfare.  Are we going to do that?  NO!! NO!! We are not going to do that.  The American people would not allow it.

If that is the case, then the only rational approach is to change the political circumstance that call forth resistance on the part of the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. 

The international Jihadis are another matter.  They have no goal but the creation of Sharia states.  There is nothing to do with them but "hunt them down" as President Bush likes to say.

If the constitution is ratified unmodified, Sunni Arab support for the insurgents will continue.  If it is defeated, then it may be possible to convince all concerned that the interests of the Sunni Arabs as a COMMUNITY must be safe guarded if there is to be any chance of a cessation of hostilities against the Iraqi nationalists.

Pat Lang


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15 Responses to “Sunni Arabs will vote no.”

  1. b says:

    I could give examples in the history of counterinsurgency warfare. Are we going to do that? NO!! NO!! We are not going to do that. The American people would not allow it.

    Well, they did allow worse things during their history – why shouldn´t they allow (lazy as the are not even recognizing it) this genozide?

  2. Pat Lang says:

    This isn’t genocide. I would agree that things like stategic bombing in WW2 were worse, but we have never set out to exterminate a people. That is genocide, and don’t start with the Indian stuff. Go count them today, those who are tribal anf those of us who are not. pl

  3. blunt says:

    Even if we crushed the insurgency I am worried about secondary effects. I feel that in places like Saudi Arabia nd Jordan this would develop into a long term sore point like Kashmir or Palestine.
    While I think it correct to say that the government did not engage in genocide of American tribes (though some seemed to advocate) desite often disgraceful behavior; there have been tribes in California and probably other places which were pretty much wiped out by local settlers. They often tried to do this before the government showed up.

  4. nanook says:

    Your points make eminent sense.
    The Sunnis have to be brought into the political process and feel they have a stake in the system if support within their community for the insurgency is going to wane.
    The challenge that I see is on the other side. The SCIRI and Dawa Shiites now have a taste of power. With Iran egging them on and quite possibly directly enmeshed in southern Iraq (see BBC reporting that British officials believe that Iran is directly linked to deaths of British troops), will they give up what they can taste without a fight. And of course right now the US is willing to shed blood to keep their Sunni competition at bay.

  5. Pat Lang says:

    Esteemed Eskimo
    Sounds good to me. pat

  6. Pat Lang says:

    this is true in re tribes, but I think it was mainly the result of settler rapaciousness, as in Israel.

  7. blunt says:

    My reading of the “Indian” issue was that it was not one big unified effort, but negotiations and sometimes war with a large number of independant entities who in many cases did not identify with each other, but often the opposite.
    I feel the behavior of our people ranged from honorable to disgraceful. I think those who try to simplify the process into a simple process of “genocide” or any other actually insult the complexity of the many people involved and the specific history between us and any one of these “multi cultures.”
    However within this vast array of activity there did occur almost any kind of activity one could name with much of it weighed to greed, prejudice and ignorance we (and other “civilized” cultures including Chinese or Vietnamese) display when dealing with the “less advanced.”
    Sadly this tendency seems to be on display in Iraq were even good and honorable intentions seem to frequently backfire.

  8. Pat Lang says:

    I could not agree more. Want me to post this on the blog as an article?

  9. Michael Murry says:

    I once had the priviledge of working and studying with a former ambassador from Sri Lanka who told me why his government turned down America’s offer of military assistance in dealing with the local Tamil “insurgency.” In one of the most concise and meaningful sentences I have ever heard, he said:
    “If the Americans come, they will just draw an arbitrary line through a temporary problem and make it permanent.”
    The ambassador/professor also told me an interesting tale of how his government once embargoed the importation of fertilizer from the Unites States — which resulted in him getting a nasty phone call from one of America’s trade representatives. It seems that Sri Lankan scientists had discovered the possibility of making bombs (or “improvised explosive devices,” as we euphemistically call such things today) from fertilizer and — given the ongoing “insurgency” — didn’t want to make a primary bomb component readily available. The American trade rep chastized my esteemed friend and told him that if Sri Lanka had “good scientists” like America did, then the Sri Lankan government would never entertain such ridiculous notions. Shorty afterwards, of course, Timothy McVeigh drove a truck full of fertilzer up to the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and detonated it. My ambassador friend then called up our lady trade rep and — in a moment of deliciously drawn-out schadenfreude — asked: “What do you think of our scientists now?”
    I share these little vignettes here because they relate directly to what ails America not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in the larger world today: namely, a deserved reputation for arrogance-born-of-ignorance and a notorious history of bureaucratic military bungling. These terrible twin tendencies towards wanton waste and destruction both offend and alarm many foreign peoples who once had a favorable impression of America. I have no way of knowing how the people Iraq — not to mention their neighbors in Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran — will eventually crawl out from under the rubble of another failed American misadventure; but it does seem obvious to me that America will have little to say about it, one way or another. We simply have no more resources left to squander and no national credibility left at all. If I may slightly paraphrase T. S. Elliot:
    “This is the way the war will end: not with a bang but a whimper.”

  10. ked says:

    “This may seem counter-intuitive…”
    These words ought to be the preamble to EVERY Iraq / ME brief the Pres receives these days (followed by creative strategy & ops concepts, & hopefully, someone will have pre-briefed him on what counter-intuitive means). Alas, I see them spiraling ever more into self-talk & a bunker mentality.
    I strongly agree that an appreciation of the “clash of cultures” among Indians, the American Gov. & Settlers could inform our national debate w/ explicit historical context. However, the Indians don’t need the Cowboy to discover a New Domestic Thrust. Twisted by Bush & our Religous Extremists, I am afraid they would pick up where we left off in the 1890s (in the modern idiom; gambling is too dangerous, Wash must manage their critical natural resources, missionary zeal, etc). Benign neglect may have finally begun to work for the American Indian – leave them to it for a while.

  11. blunt says:

    Thankyou for the compliment.
    You are free to use anything I write in anyway you chose.
    I appreciate your stance because while skeptical of this war you feel the agony of our possible failure, while with many critics I sense a subdued pleasure over the disgrace of the president.
    This is such a serious and terrible thing. And the consequences could be so great for us and those of the middle east.
    I used to be angry, now mostly sad and I really hope it will work out.

  12. McGee says:

    Hi Colonel,
    Great post and I empathize totally with all of your commenters, especially blunt. This IS a frightenly terrible situation with no easy exit in sight.
    I would like to expand a little on Michael Murry’s excellent comment. Few who have not worked overseas have any idea how strongly much of our diplomatic and even intelligence efforts are colored by the often mis-guided efforts of US economic interests. In stark contrast to almost any other western country, most US Ambassadors are appointed because of their political and commercial connections and have little or no feel for or knowledge of the country to which they are assigned. Worse yet, the worst of them (and their are MANY in BOTH democratic and republican administrations) turn their embassies into an arm of the US Commerce Department as quickly as they can, and do untold damage with their “arrogance-born-of-ignoarnce” and unshake-able faith in the “American Way”. I only mention this because Mr. Murry’s comments brought this so clearly home to me once again…..
    Wouldn’t it be great if we could have diplomatic and intelligence professionals running diplomacy and intelligence? Novel idea, no?

  13. blunt says:

    I was just thinking about your general concept in light of Fema and other crony apointments.
    I decided I disagree. While I think insiders should be among the list of choices, I think outsiders can be useful.
    The issue is a ruthless questioning of competence to the degree at least we get with the Supreme court or a company would make hiring an outside executive. For something like Fema there are a wide variety of backgrounds that could provide individuals with skills. For an ambassador to an Arabic country someone who speaks the language and has experience could be useful.
    To take an example from a different post, it might have been nice if we’d had Bernard Fall in a high position during Vietnam.
    Personally I think the “civil service” has been a mixed success. It has raised competence from the 19th century, but has it’s own problems and bureaucratic blindness. Ditto for the military and intelligence.
    So so some system of seeding such systems with outsiders is necessary.
    What’s really required is intelligent selection. For example in my opinion both McNamera and Rumsfeld would have been brilliant choices as number 2 or 3 at Defence, given parts of the system to try and revolutionize.
    A lot of what we need is offered in Dricker and others, we can do it. But I wory that even a lot of US business fails to use our hard earned knowledge and rejects the greater talents.
    But modest improvements can have dramatic effects. But there is little political pressure for reforming process and lots of pressures for keeping current games. Hopefully Katrina will awaken another look at government in general.

  14. BadTux says:

    Watching Fox news and reading the right-wing web sites, I’m not so sure that the majority of the American people (those who blindly follow their chimpanzee alpha male and hoot and howl and fling feces at anybody who doesn’t) would not endorse the extermination of the Sunni Arabs in Iraq. If their Party commissars on Hate Radio tell them that the Sunni are all evil doers, why, they’ll put on their white cowboy hats and exterminate the brutes, or at least enough of them to subjugate them.
    With enthusiastic enough support from the right-wing media, anything can be justified. See: Phillipines, 1898-1912 (roughly), where we killed around a million Filipinos (if the last Spanish census and our first Phillipines census were correct) between outright murder and starving numerous Filipinos to death in the concentration camps we set up when we depopulated entire provinces in order to deny support to the insurgency. All that was necessary was to paint lurid-enough pictures of the insurgents as evil, bloodthirsty savages, and voila!
    In short: I’m not so sanguine about the better virtues of the American populance. As Goebbels proved, even the most war-averse populance can, in the end, be swayed to support the worst of atrocities if there is sufficient propaganda in support of said atrocities.

  15. Keischa says:

    Aft12U Good point. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way. 🙂

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