Thoughts on the Renewed Violence in Iraq

Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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9 Responses

  1. North says:

    I just hope Obama has the steel to adhere rigidly to the previously agreed time table. Yes Bush made this mess the way it is now by knocking down Saddam but it was like this all along. Saddam was just keeping it tamped down with strongman brutality. Sucky as it is I suspect that they may have to fight it our among themselves.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    One of the things that never occurred to me is that Saddam was a reaction to Iraq and he merely happened to be the guy who made it to the top of the heap.Report

    • Chris Dierkes in reply to Jaybird says:

      in some ways yes. He was also on his own an insane psychopath. There are dictators and then there are insane dictators (see Burma for example).

      Maliki is somewhat paranoid given his experience of being on the run/in hiding/evading murder for so many years. But he doesn’t seem to have the Stalinist bloodlust that Saddam did.Report

  3. mike farmer says:

    “Also, I’m skeptical of the false peace of Iraq falling apart. Steve is a smart guy and he knows that the violence in Iraq is a means to try to achieve political goals.”

    Van Crevald wrote:

    “Ironic thought the fact may be, it is when the stakes are highest and a community strains every sinew in a life-and-death struggle that the ordinary strategic terminology fails. Under such circumstances, to say that war is an “instrument” serving the “policy” of the community that “wages” it is to stretch all three terms to the point of meaninglessness. Where the distinction between ends and means breaks down, even the idea of war fought “for” something is only barely applicable. The difficulty consists precisely in that a war of this type does not constitute a continuation of policy by other means. Instead, it would be more correct to say….that it merges with policy, becomes policy, is policy. Such a war cannot be “used” for this purpose or that, not does it “serve” anything. On the contrary, the outburst of violence is best understood as the supreme manifestation of existence as well as a celebration of it.”

    Kalevi Holsti wrote:

    “American planners during the Vietnam War, as well as their British, French, Israeli, and Soviet counterparts in Cyprus, Algeria, Indochina, the occupied territories, Afghanistan, and dozens of other locales, could never win the “wars” precisely becaue they operated under a Clausewitzian calculus. Americans asked what possible purpose could the killing of 45,000 fellow citizens serve in terms of United States interest? This is not a question the Afghans, Algerians, Karens, or Tamils have asked. No government which is merely pursuing traditional-style interests could possibly mobilze a whole society in conduct of the peoples’ war for thirty or more years.”

    We don’t yet understand the third way of war.Report

    • Chris Dierkes in reply to mike farmer says:


      Those are some deep quotations (particularly van Crev., he’s one of the best). But the cases outlined above are Western powers trying to stamp down a local insurgency. The Iraq case 2004-2007 certainly fits that profile.

      What’s not clear is an intra-country insurgency. I don’t think the Shia side will ever be able to eradicate the Sunni insurgency–short of essentially eradicating the entire population. The only counterinsurgency “winners” are the Russians in Chechnya and the Sinhalese against the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Both were mass killing of the population. I have a hard time seeing that in Iraq. Both of the previous two cases were in out of the way places, isolated, that no one had any interest in.

      Iraq is in the heart of the Middle East and there is lots of oil laying in the ground, plus strongly weaponized neighbors in all directions who are aligned with various factions within Iraq. So I can’t see the Russian-Sinhalese model taking place there.

      What I can see, is the kind of scenario I laid out in the post. Something like Mexico, Colombia, or ghetto US with the war on drugs. An ugly outcome to be sure but not the same as the breakdown of the state.Report

  4. Steve Hynd says:

    Chris, I worry about recent reports about the factionalisation of the ISF, where individual divisions, brigades and officers are beholden to political parties – militiamen who donned the Iraqi uniform as camouflage.

    I don’t think the Shias have finally sorted out their pecking order yet and I don’t think the Sistani truce between the greedy warlords of DAWA, SIIC and others is going to hold. I think their greed will top their obedience to the ayatollah. I don’t see the breakdown as being purely ethnic, but rather multi-factional along deep fractured within ethnic and religious communities. Sadrist v SIIC is an obvious one, as is Awakening v Sunni Accordists. Less obvious, but just as likely given recent discord is Dawa v SIIC. That’s alongside Kurd v Arab, Shia v Sunni and Insurgent v US Military.

    My friend Eric Martin recently had a great post on the intricacies of the SOFA waltz, with Maliki now pushing the referendum he’d previously not cared about.

    Regards, SteveReport

    • Chris Dierkes in reply to Steve Hynd says:


      Thanks for the response. I did at one point theorize about a Lebanonization scenario for Iraq and what you describe maybe could lay potential groundwork for that series of events.

      Eric’s idea that Maliki might be using the referendum as a tool against Odierno is a very intriguing one. We’ll see.Report

  5. mike farmer says:

    The internal conflicts will have to be worked out after we leave. The question is will we maintain a restricted presence, to be drawn back in time and again. The point is that our efforts are futile when we think and act in terms of political objectives — theirs or ours. The conflict for them is not to achieve a specific political goal, conflict is their way of life. So far there is no evidence of an industry based society who will join the global economy. There will be continuing struggles based on values we can’t understand. If an alternative to oil was discovered tomorrow, they would collapse into chaos in no time short. I’m not sure the elite elements who want to join modernity and the global economy are strong enough to resist the majority who seem satisfied with their way of life, which is foreign to ours.Report