Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Iraqis still think life's better than under Saddam, but gloom growing

That life today is better than life prior to the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein is still the most commonly held view among Iraqis:
Asked to compare their lives today with conditions before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the proportion of Iraqis who say things are better now has slipped below half for the first time. Forty-two percent say their lives have improved, down from 51 percent in 2005 and 56 percent in 2004. Thirty-six percent now say things in their lives are worse today, up from 29 percent in the 2005 poll, which was taken during a period of relative optimism ahead of parliamentary elections. Twenty-two percent say their lives are about the same.
Another poll conducted by a British media researching company was a bit more optimistic:
MOST Iraqis believe life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein, according to a British opinion poll published today.

The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week.
In either case, the perception that life has improved is hardly surprising, since the Baathists have been removed from power and a Shiite coalitional majority now controls the Iraqi government. The results predictably breakdown along sectarian lines:
Assessments of the government in Baghdad reflect sectarian and ethnic differences. About three-quarters of Shiites and Kurds have confidence in the government, while just 8 percent of Sunnis feel that way. Similarly, two-thirds of Shiites and six in 10 Kurds approve of the prime minister's work, but only 3 percent of Sunnis do so.
Both surveys reveal a majority of Iraqis believing that things will improve once multinational forces leave the country. After four years of slugging it out with mostly Sunni militias, training a mostly Shia security force and military, and legitimizing majority (Shia) rule, it's not surprising that most Shiites are ready for the coalition to shove off. We've obliterated their sectarian antagonists and handed the reigns over to them. From their perspective it's best for us to depart now before we start getting too even-handed and begin protecting Sunni communities.

Many Kurds probably see the coalition's departure as a green light for an even more autonomous Kurdish north--one that feels no pressure to act when called upon by Baghdad to play mediator in escalating Arab Sunni-Shia fighting.

The Iraq War has removed a secular Persian antagonist from the heart of the Middle East and installed a Shia-dominated government friendly to Iran. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other moderately pro-US Muslim governments are increasingly worried about the threat a Shia Iraq poses. Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern coastline is home to most of the kingdom's Shiites. Just across the Persian Gulf is Iran, with an Iraqi buffer separating the two by land.

We should follow the footsteps of our largest partner in the invasion and begin pulling out. Most Iraqis want us gone. By a margin of 63% to 35% most Americans do as well. Due to the high number of injuries compared to fatalities the US has absorbed during the war, the human cost is going to remain a living legacy similar to that of Vietnam. The foundational support of Congress for the war has vanished because of the war itself. It's over. Yet with most Iraqis saying life is more auspicious now than under Saddam, a democratically-based election system in place, and lots of IED-making militants in the ground, with heart-over-chest we can still profess dignity and success as the US military executes a troop drawdown.

The Bush administration is continuing to dig its heels in, however. On the war's fourth anniversary, the President pleaded for more time to allow the latest corner-turning tactical adjustment to take effect. He has less than two years left. He may, despite widespread consanguinety, an estimated average IQ of 87, Middle Eastern tribalism, widespread poverty, a professional class exodus, and Islam, still believe that Iraq can come out the way he initially imagined it would. Or, less nobly, he may be trying a "decent interval" strategy to keep the US involvement in Iraq alive long enough to pass it on to a Democratically-controlled Congress and Whitehouse to deal with.


al fin said...

It reminds me of 1992 when Bush Sr. handed over responsibility of the Somalia mission to Bill Clinton. Blackhawk Down

The world is a tricky place. Clinton was able to sweep a lot of issues under the rug--push them off on a later administration, to keep the US economy going until the very end of his term. Bush is probably thinking about doing the same, now.

Bush tried to confront one major world problem that 9/11 made impossible to ignore. Did he go about it the wrong way? Hindsight is perfect.

The US Democratic Party appears determined to write a catastrophic end to Bush's Iraq story, regardless of any adverse consequences to their constituents. But it is just as likely that it will be remembered as the Democrats' Iraq story, historically.

Most modern people are incredibly short sighted and blinkered--very short attention span and near-complete lack of historical perspective.

al fin said...

By most modern people being short-sighted, I was referring to politicians, journalists, and the people who pay too much attention to both groups.

If people actually read history themselves--not the politically correct, post-modern ultra-sanitized versions of history, but well researched history--it is easy to catch journalists trying to slant the story, time after time.

Without that historical perspective, the journalist's point of view becomes the readers' point of view, until it is one jolly exercise in groupthink.

expat said...

Declare a State of Emergency and install a dictator. After four years we must some idea of a competent poliitician or military officer who could serve in that function. A way to spin it might be to remind people that the sainted Abe Lincoln acted as a dictator during the US Civil War.

It would, of course, be a gamble;
as a limited insurance policy transfer our forces in South Korea to peaceful Kurdistan. All the troops currently stationed in Iraq would be withdrawn.

crush41 said...

Al Fin,

If it wasn't out of a fear of redundancy, I'd put in every post I make about the ME just how limited my understanding of the place is. And I make a pretty concerted effort to make sense of it.

That we never hear about the rate of consanguineous marriage sums it up well for me. The journalists your rightly disdain oppose the Iraq war because they impugn the administration's motives, not because they disagree with the neocons basic premises. It is these that I'm very skeptical of.

crush41 said...


That would be a political nightmare, possibly more contentious even than a draft. Might be good in the long run, however, if it gets us out of Korea.

expat said...

So you're OK with a war of annihilation between Shiites and Sunnis when we leave? And likely intervention by foreign Sunnis to aid their outnumbered brethren? Extermination of the remaining Christian minorities by Muslim radicals? Iran moving in to restore order and "restore order"?

crush41 said...


How long do we stay? The things you portend seem inevitable to me.

We can lessen their severity by assisting Sunnis and Shiites from moving away from one another, and by supporting a partitioning of the country with a commitment to see that something close to an equitable distribution of oil reserves is realized.