Even President Bush is likening Iraq to images of Vietnam — but in an opposite way from the Iraq War’s critics.
Bush has suggested at the National Convention for the Veterans of Foreign Wars that withdrawal from Iraq would lead to the same kind of upheaval in the Middle East as occurred in Southeast Asia after U.S. withdrawal from Saigon.
Senator Joe Biden responds to the President thus:
President Bush continues to cling to a fundamentally flawed premise — that Iraqis will rally behind a strong central government. That will not happen.
There’s no trust within the Iraqi government; no trust of the government by the Iraqi people; no capacity of that government to deliver security or services; and no prospect that it will build that trust or capacity any time soon.
Unless Iraq moves towards a federal system that gives the warring factions breathing room, we will end up trading a dictator for chaos that will set back our national security interests for a generation.
President Bush today attempted to draw an analogy to Vietnam, but in fact it’s the President’s policies that are pushing us toward another Saigon moment — with helicopters fleeing the roof of our embassy — which he says he wants to avoid.
The President also continues to play the American people for fools — conflating the terrorists of 9/11 with Al Qaeda in Iraq today. Al Qaeda in Iraq didn’t exist before we invaded — it is a Bush fulfilling prophecy.
Separately, my New America Foundation/American Strategy Program colleague Nir Rosen has been all over the news and blogosphere today with his comments on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now in which Rosen suggests there is no more Iraq:
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Senator Levin calling for the Maliki and the whole government to disband?
NIR ROSEN: Well, it’s stupid for several reasons.
First of all, the Iraqi government doesn’t matter. It has no power. And it doesn’t matter who you put in there. He’s not going to have any power. Baghdad doesn’t really matter, except for Baghdad. Baghdad used to be the most important city in Iraq, and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled Iraq.
These days, you have a collection of city states: Mosul, Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Irbil, Sulaymaniyah. Each one is virtually independent, and they have their own warlords and their own militias. And what happens in Baghdad makes no difference. So that’s the first point.
Second of all, who can he put in instead? What does he think he’s going to put in? Allawi or some secular candidate? There was a democratic election, and the majority of Iraqis selected the sectarian Shiite group Dawa, Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution, the Sadr Movement. These are movements that are popular among the majority of Shias, who are the majority of Iraq.
So it doesn’t matter who you put in there. And people in the Green Zone have never had any power. Americans, whether in the government or journalists, have been focused on the Green Zone from the beginning of the war, and it’s never really mattered. It’s been who has power on the street, the various different militias, depending on where you are — Sunni, Shia, tribal, religious, criminal. So it just reflects the same misunderstanding of Iraqi politics.
The government doesn’t do anything, doesn’t provide any services, whether security, electricity, health or otherwise. Various militias control various ministries, and they use it as their fiefdoms. Ministries attack other ministries.
The implications of what Biden and Rosen are saying is that it appears impossible to reassemble Iraq under a single strong government, or even a strongman of the likes of Hussein. Biden’s plan may be the last chance for a semi-workable model of government, but if that is not achieved, then Iraq may melt into warring, unstable fiefdoms under warlords that will assign their loyalties to Iran, Saudi Arabia, or some Talibanized network of affiliated semi-states.
Bleak, but we’ve known that.
— Steve Clemons