Notes on the
Iraq Study Group Report
are notes on the report under the perspective of Otoom. They are attached
to direct quotes, and although these should not be considered as a substitute
for a summary (the document is far more comprehensive than that) they nevertheless
illustrate the views as they suggested themselves to the report's authors.
Those views are often in agreement with what has been expressed in various
contexts on this website.
The quotes are
translated into the framework of functionalities that can be identified in
cognitive systems. What is not dealt with here therefore are the actual numbers
of entities as they relate to the military, the political and sectarian players,
significant individuals here and there, and the precise conditions in relevant
circles in the region and the United States. A knowledge of such object-related
information would be essential as soon as the functional view is related back
to the situation on the ground. It is impossible to enter into such considerations
as a distant observer.
The page numbers
refer to the pdf version available on the Internet (one site would be the
United States Institute of Peace).
No one can
guarantee that any course of action in Iraq at this point will stop sectarian
warfare, growing violence, or a slide toward chaos. [p. 4]
in the introductory letter by the report's co-chairs, James A. Baker III,
and Lee H. Hamilton, hints not only at the situation per se, but at its dynamic
nature. Since the report has as its aim to seek alternatives to the present
policy, any continuation along similar lines offers that pessimistic view.
The question that suggests itself between the lines becomes, by how much would
an alternative have to differ for it to be still seen as a viable policy in
the US' view - or, to put it bluntly, if the coalition would leave Iraq tomorrow,
could the situation get any worse?
States has long-term relationships and interests at stake in the Middle East,
and needs to stay engaged. [p. 4]
relationships and interests at stake" is a sign of a progression lock, ie
an instantiated set of concepts and actions that have configured their stage
such that any subsequent developments are constrained in their potential.
It is a common occurrence in thought structures as well as in the material
world and leads to preset notions that run the risk of steering their owner
away from reality.
in Iraq is one example on a grand scale. There are two major functional domains,
the US on one side and Iraq on the other. They can be broken down into further
subdomains at whatever scale. For the US they would be the different arms
of government and their hierarchies, the military, and any non-governmental
entities. In Iraq the constituent elements would be similar, although differing
in content and scope.
of the progression lock are largely negative because the cognitive discrepancy
between the two domains is too great. Since the discrepancy is not recognised
the interests within both domains are being pursued regardless, and the cognitive
distance between them prevents either side from becoming alert to the dangers
procured by the other. At the same time the factions within Iraq have the
advantage of being on home ground - geographically, historically, culturally,
Iraq is vital
to regional and even global stability, and is critical to U.S. interests.
It runs along the sectarian fault lines of Shia and Sunni Islam, and of Kurdish
and Arab populations. It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves.
It is now a base of operations for international terrorism, including al Qaeda.
It can be assumed
the reason for the region being critical to US interests are the vast oil
reserves. That in itself represents a dangerous progression lock for the US
and therefore the West. Given the context of idealistic and ideological prerequisites
in the West the ongoing entanglement with the Middle East is suffered to the
tune of much blood and money, while there is a relatively minimal amount of
funds directed towards undoing such dependency.
Mention of the
major demographics is at least a recognition that the area is fractured to
a high degree. In terms of functional dynamics the lesson is obvious: whatever
the success of an engagement with one faction, it is being neutralised by
measures necessary for linking with another. If there was no neutralising
effect there would be no different factions.
Among such a
multitude chances are terrorist organisations exist too. There may be real
terrorists or those who need the tag for local purposes. In any case, for
the West such entities only then become significant if their aims can be transposed
into Western space. This is a major obstacle to any such operations but political
weakness in the West makes the task of overcoming it that much easier.
Iraq is a
centerpiece of American foreign policy, influencing how the United States
is viewed in the region and around the world. Because of the gravity of Iraq's
condition and the country's vital importance, the United States is facing
one of its most difficult and significant international challenges in decades.
Because events in Iraq have been set in motion by American decisions and actions,
the United States has both a national and a moral interest in doing what it
can to give Iraqis an opportunity to avert anarchy. [p. 9]
Quite true. The
problem is, from Otoom's perspective the paragraph is a contradiction.
The events in
Iraq are a function of a US belief system carrying out its vision. Any further
involvement - under whatever banner - is merely bringing the self-same system
to bear upon the region once more. So, if the US created the problems because
it wanted to 'help', what hope is there for a solution if the US wants to
has no single leadership but is a network of networks. [p. 10]
True again. It
is in line with Otoom where the multifaceted nature of such demographics and
therefore their endeavours has been amply described. The pervasiveness of
religion, tribal culture, and familial links ensure that no official framework
is needed to establish connections.
The West used
to function in a similar fashion, but since the toning down of religion and
regional cultures more official structures have taken over. When it comes
to Islamic regions we need to recall our cultural memory.
have different goals, although nearly all oppose the presence of U.S. forces
in Iraq. [p. 10]
In line with
Otoom regarding conceptual intersections. The existence of multi-variant subcultures
within the larger space of religion and history allows for overlaps if the
conditions are right. No matter how averse the local factions may be towards
each other, once they can agree on something the previous arguments disappear.
The US has managed to unite disparate groups - it cost, but it managed.
Iraqis are often found bound and executed, their bodies dumped in rivers or
fields. [p. 10]
kidnappings, and murder are commonplace in much of the country. Organized
criminal rackets thrive, particularly in unstable areas like Anbar province.
A region containing
multifaceted demographics will show the signs of isolated characteristics,
that is behaviour forms that did not have the luxury of being ameliorated
through mixing with a wider standard. Therefore excesses are more likely,
and the demonstration of just what such excesses entail has been a recurrent
feature of this war.
It is yet another
set of conditions that existed in the West's past but have been forgotten.
questions remain about the ethnic composition and loyalties of some Iraqi
units-specifically, whether they will carry out missions on behalf of national
goals instead of a sectarian agenda. [p. 12]
of the Iraqi police is substantially worse than that of the Iraqi Army.
analysis of the conditions within Middle Eastern demographics would have revealed
their ethnic compositions and their consequences, and so Iraq would have been
seen in a different light.
Naturally a particular
faction in such a society will further the goals of that faction - if it didn't
the people could not be identified as a faction to begin with nor would they
identify themselves in a particular manner.
purposes as envisioned by the US cannot be accommodated under such a system.
Protection Service poses additional problems. Each Iraqi ministry has an armed
unit, ostensibly to guard the ministry's infrastructure. All together, these
units total roughly 145,000 uniformed Iraqis under arms. However, these units
have questionable loyalties and capabilities. [p. 14]
An example of
what factional demographics mean on ground level. It is obvious the average
American bureaucrat cannot envisage conditions the West has surpassed long
ago, otherwise services essential to the stability and reconstruction of Iraq
would not have been put into the hands of such a conglomerate.
the majority of Iraq's population, have gained power for the first time in
more than 1,300 years. [p. 16]
circumstance that should have been identifiable from a good history book.
The ramifications of historical importance on any side and bolstered by religious
fervour assume a major significance when it comes to massively interfering
with a country's internal processes.
dynamics of identity and self-preservation have driven the fate of humanity
over the ages.
government is not effectively providing its people with basic services: electricity,
drinking water, sewage, health care, and education. In many sectors, production
is below or hovers around prewar levels. In Baghdad and other unstable areas,
the situation is much worse. There are five major reasons for this problem.
The major reasons
given refer to a lack of services, corruption, absence of skilled personnel,
and a weak judiciary. Yet those reasons are themselves a function of the multiple
demographic strands mentioned above. Therefore trying to address any one of
the five without bothering with the greater picture does not lead to a solution
but makes matters worse.
and actions of Iraq's neighbors greatly influence its stability and prosperity.
No country in the region wants a chaotic Iraq. Yet Iraq's neighbors are doing
little to help it, and some are undercutting its stability. [p. 24]
dichotomy shows the interplay between conscious and subconscious thought structures,
where both are active but going in different directions. It happens in individuals
but also occurs on a large scale. The phenomenon is typical of religious societies
(or ideologically influenced societies in general) where compromises between
one's perspective and reality have to be made constantly.
The above also
demonstrates the sheer opaqueness of Middle Eastern affairs, whether in a
street market or across nations.
content for the U.S. military to be tied down in Iraq, a position that limits
U.S. options in addressing Iran's nuclear program and allows Iran leverage
over stability in Iraq. ... "Iran is negotiating with the United States in
the streets of Baghdad." ... Like Iran, Syria is content to see the United
States tied down in Iraq. [p. 25]
has been said before. It also demonstrates how the pervasive nature of religion
and local culture can be used so effectively, even at a distance. There is
no need for explicitly written assignments passing between Teheran and Baghdad,
just as there is no need between people in a market place to overtly state
It is an example
of a straight-laced foreigner becoming host to the local interests; he understands
nothing but is led to do their bidding in any case.
are deeply concerned about the operations of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)-a
terrorist group based in northern Iraq that has killed thousands of Turks.
The links demonstrated
here should be of concern not only to the direct participants around Iraq
but to anyone who intends to connect from Europe eastwards. Turkey's entry
in the EU would not only be a matter of balance of payment figures and human
rights, but the potentially explosive connections binding Turkey one way or
another to the affairs of the Middle East.
States has made a massive commitment to the future of Iraq in both blood and
treasure. As of December 2006, nearly 2,900 Americans have lost their lives
serving in Iraq. Another 21,000 Americans have been wounded, many severely.
To date, the United States has spent roughly $400 billion on the Iraq War,
and costs are running about $8 billion per month. In addition, the United
States must expect significant "tail costs" to come. Caring for veterans and
replacing lost equipment will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the U.S. involvement
in Iraq. [p. 27]
may seem like philosophical gossamer to some, but they do stand for very real
events which sometimes can be measured on the scale mentioned here.
people could be subjected to another strongman who flexes the political and
military muscle required to impose order amid anarchy. Freedoms could be lost.
Exactly. In fact,
in regions where multiple standards, religious intensity, and the need to
uphold 'honour' across so many precarious connections are the norm, the only
way a nation can be held together as a nation is through a strongman. Therefore
the current situation in Iraq requires it already.
It could be said
that directly or indirectly the US and its allies are actually playing into
the hands of those interests. One does not engage within a strange land with
We agree with
the goal of U.S. policy in Iraq, as stated by the President: an Iraq that
can "govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself." In our view, this
definition entails an Iraq with a broadly representative government that maintains
its territorial integrity, is at peace with its neighbors, denies terrorism
a sanctuary, and doesn't brutalize its own people. [p. 31]
Given the conditions
there the above is a contradiction in terms, and making such statements demonstrates
the profound lack of understanding by the US.
To put it
simply, all key issues in the Middle East-the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq,
Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism-are
inextricably linked. [p. 33]
type of complexity one encounters in the Middle East, enhanced by the current
war. From that the degree to which the US can act unwittingly in the service
of all those constituents can be imagined.
Summary on the
All the proposed
measures would be valid under stable and productive circumstances, where the
stake holders are cognisant of their validity. To achieve such a recognition
many fundamental characteristics need to change which in itself is a near
impossibility unless subsumed under a sufficiently effective power structure.
Such a structure will naturally have its own goals and use its momentum to
achieve them. Its power is used to override dissenters - the typical scenario
of a strong-man state and one which can be observed wherever the conditions
allow, if not demand, such an alternative.
What adds more
than an element of uncertainty to the general thrust of the recommendations
is the suggested involvement of adversaries, such as Iran and Syria. Not because
they are adversaries - as the report says, "it is our view that in diplomacy,
a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try to resolve
conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests" [p. 37], but
because they have their own agendas and as the present situation shows the
degree of insight into another's motives and perspective is not one of the
US' strong points. As the report notes, "All of our efforts in Iraq, military
and civilian, are handicapped by Americans' lack of language and cultural
understanding." [p. 60]
On that note
the recognition that dialogue is necessary with effective parties, rather
than official entities, is in line with the overall theme. "Violence cannot
end unless dialogue begins, and the dialogue must involve those who wield
power, not simply those who hold political office." [p. 46]
perspective makes for a preconfigured formality under whose terms the situation
is then assessed. "For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks
or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports
for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is
difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that
minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals." [p. 62]
All in all the
report shows a lucid assessment of the situation but is tragically tempered
by the progression lock entered into by the US and its own ideological predisposition.
The results are exacerbated by the US' lack of understanding when it comes
to foreign demographics.
Read what 'the
other side' has to say about the report: Dr. Khaled Batarfi writes on the
Note: The report
was published in December 2006.
10 Dec 2006