Is Bush Taking a Page from Clinton Playbook for Iraq?
Bill Clinton "contained" Kim Jong Ill by writing him checks from the Public Treasury so that he would quit saber-rattling for two years until Clinton left office, basically leaving the problem to the next guy (G.W. Bush). It was basically a bribe to quiet down. That did not last long once the money ran out, but it did keep keep the problem under the carpet long enough for Bill Clinton to get out of town and make it the next guy's problem.
We have found out the hard way that Iraq does not have nuclear weapons, much less a delivery system. Because of that they cannot be the same kind of problem for us that North Korea could be. But they are still a problem. I am getting reports from troops in the field that leads me to believe that President Bush is taking a page from the Clinton playbook in an effort to "win" in Iraq.
By "win" I don't mean a military victory. Surely our troops have won battle after battle. They have done all that one can reasonably hope to do by military means. But military means cannot be used to force a population to have the internal virtue required to defend their own liberty and sustain self-rule on a basis of respect even for the other guy's tribe. Here the President is in a pickle. Our guys are fighting, and consistently winning when we can catch the terrorists. But most of the administration's "political goals" for Iraq remain unmet. Can anyone out there tell me how our troops can achieve "political goals" for the people of Iraq? Meanwhile, the Iraqi legislators have decided to take a month or so vacation.
What I am hearing from troops returning from deployment is that our government has pulled out our country's checkbook and started paying off tribal leaders to make nice with us and turn on Al-Quida. The Saudis are helping finance the pay-outs as well. The problem is more difficult than the one Clinton faced, because Clinton knew that if he gave oil, cash, and electric power generation equipment to Kim then N. Korea would behave. In Iraq (and Afganistan to some extent) there is no single person to pay off. Instead, we are handing out taxpayer goodies to a wide variety of desert sheiks. We are then arming their young men. They are turning on Al-Quida in droves. Unfortunately, they frequently use their guns on other tribes as well.
The Iraqi government, largely Shia, take a very dim view of us backing the largely Sunni tribes and essentially starting another militia whose loyalty is to themselves and our checks rather than the government of Iraq and our ideals. Still, if the government does not like it, they could have tried harder to whip their national army into shape. They have not done so. Even though these new militias occasionally massacre the wrong people, continued U.S. and Saudi funding keeps them largely in-line and focused on killing our common enemy- those aligned with Al-Quida.
It appears that the President is making a last big push to kill as many Islamic militants as possible, and paying off everyone else that could make trouble to behave themselves. I predict that shortly after the checks from American taxpayers are stopped that they will return to their centuries-old traditions of cutting one another's throats. Hopefully by then we will have declared victory and gone home.