Blogs > HNN > On Getting Out of Iraq, III

Aug 24, 2005 4:19 pm

On Getting Out of Iraq, III

In my last post of August 22, I discussed the three ways wars have ended in history: military victory; negotiated cease-fires during militarily deadlocked wars; and third-party imposition of a peace or armistice upon the belligerents. Is there a fourth way; namely, fade-away?

During the Vietnam War, for example, U.S. government planners identified fade-away as one of the alternative ways in which the war might end; that is, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army might fade away as the result of lack of success, sheer exhaustion, or attrition. It never happened, as we know, but is it likely that the Iraqi insurgents might fade away?

Anything is possible, I suppose, and no one can predict what will actually happen. But it seems wishful thinking that the insurgency will just go away—considering the number of insurgent factions, the issues dividing Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds, the stakes at risk for them, the nationalistic anger of Iraqis against the American occupation, the apparent involvement of outsiders, and so on.

What is more likely is that as in Vietnam, U.S. armed forces will fade away; that is, the Bush administration, like the Nixon administration, might begin a phased withdrawal next Spring—if there is a friendly Iraqi government in place, if Iraqification has made progress, if there is the reality or appearance of security and political stability, and if American citizens demand withdrawal. Once the process of withdrawal began, it would be politically difficult to halt. Of course, the withdrawal could also drag on for years, as it did in Vietnam.

In any event, the withdrawal and the war would have to end with some sort of negotiated agreement between the U.S., the Iraqi government, and the main insurgent factions—and perhaps Syria and Iran. Once the Bush administration or any American administration decides to begin a withdrawal, it would likely want to negotiate a cease-fire in order that it didn’t seem like a bug out and in order to ensure that the withdrawal could be completed “honorably.” Thus, fade-away is just one more version of war-ending number two, a negotiated cease-fire during a militarily deadlocked war, in which one side more than the other decides it’s time to cut losses and get out.

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Jeffrey P. Kimball - 8/25/2005

I had said in my post that an insurgent fade-away is possible, but not, in my judgment, likely. If insurgents do fade away, why would it happen? You suggest that some Sunnis are discussing compromise. That's negotiation--part of the second historic way wars have ended. Fade-away doesn't in itself deserve to be a separate category. Often it's a tactic:
fade away until the situation is propitious. (Then there's the problem of post-U.S. withdrawal civil war, even with insurgent fade-away now.) How about this: we just say insurgent fade-away is possible, but so too more likely American withdrawal? Then we can move forward to solutions and means.

John H. Lederer - 8/25/2005

If I understand your post:

1. Fade away of insurgency unlikely

2. U.S. fadeaway possible

3. Would want ceasefire

4. Therefore fade away of insurgency is just one more example of one side deciding it is time to quit.

I would suggest that the most common ending for any insurgency is the fade away of the *insurgency*, or to put it simply, taking over governments and societies is not easy.

I would also suggest that in Iraq it is getting harder, not easier, for an insurgency to succeed, because the forming Iraqi government processes are getting stronger.

One example is that the Sunnis, the natural supporters of an insurgency, are now urging Sunnis to vote against the Constitution to force new elections. In the new elections, they hope, they will obtain a greater voice in a democratic government.

Voter drives are not good news for insurgencies.