September 26, 2005

Cole's New Exit Strategy; Same As The Old Exit Strategy

Lookie here, what happened to Juan Cole's much ballyhooed 10 point Iraq exit plan? It's, like, history. Cole's got us rushing to the exits, asap, as he writes today:

The ground troops must come out. Now. For the good of Iraq. For the good of America.

Good thing consistency is but the hobgoblin of little's Cole not even a month ago:

Personally, I think "US out now" as a simple mantra neglects to consider the full range of possible disasters that could ensue. For one thing, there would be an Iraq civil war. Iraq wasn't having a civil war in 2002. And although you could argue that what is going on now is a subterranean, unconventional civil war, it is not characterized by set piece battles and hundreds of people killed in a single battle, as was true in Lebanon in 1975-76, e.g. People often allege that the US military isn't doing any good in Iraq and there is already a civil war. These people have never actually seen a civil war and do not appreciate the lid the US military is keeping on what could be a volcano.

The first time I read Cole's ten point plan, I immediately suspected it was little more than a thinly veiled plan to exit Iraq asap. And that's exactly what it was, wasn't it? I mean, how could you seriously take an Iraq policy prescription that recommended all U.S. personnel vacating the major cities of Iraq under current conditions? What was this meant to achieve, handing over the streets of Baghdad and Mosul to the insurgency? Or the militias?

Cole (in last's months incarnation of an exit strategy):

1) US ground troops should be withdrawn ASAP from urban areas as a first step. Iraqi police will just have to do the policing. We are no good at it. If local militias take over, that is the Iraqi government's problem. The prime minister will have to either compromise with the militia leaders or send in other Iraqi militias to take them on. Who runs Iraqi cities can no longer be a primary concern of the US military. Our troops are warriors, not traffic cops.

2) In the second phase of withdrawal, most US ground troops would steadily be brought out of Iraq.

Well, now not even a month on, Cole has ingloriously dispensed with the fiction that he was in favor of some phased withdrawal (which, with his suggestion to start with the so critical cities, was the height of recklessness to begin with). We're now at, put simply, get the hell out asap! How can a knowledgeable regional expert like Cole not more seriously reckon with the impact such a hugely precipitous withdrawal would have in terms of destabilizing the region? Just a month ago, he was at least pretending to grapple with that reality. But no more...

Posted by Gregory at September 26, 2005 04:21 AM | TrackBack (0)

There's a lot of doubt about Cole's claims to be a "knowledgeable regional expert." He's never even been to Iraq. Here's one of many blogs that take on Mr. Cole on a regular basis:

Posted by: Joey at September 26, 2005 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Damn - beat me to it

So tell us - why do you characterize Cole as a "regional expert" - since he's never been to Iraq at all???

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at September 26, 2005 06:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If having been to Iraq were a prerequisite for being allowed to comment on it, an awful lot of people besides Juan Cole would have nothing to say.

Cole is too prone to let his distaste for the current administration in Washington dictate the line he takes on developments in Iraq, and I have been occasionally astonished that someone who has made his field of study Iraq's Shiites should be as inclined as he is to blame their problems on the Americans and British rather than their longtime oppressors, Iraq's Sunni Arabs. On the other hand his site is a source for information from Iraq that appears elsewhere later on other sites and in the mainstream media, information that is right more often than not. If his credentials are not all that he sometimes makes out his sources are pretty good.

Posted by: Zathras at September 26, 2005 07:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Key word-Regional. He's definitely an expert on Shi'ism and has travelled and lived throughout the region. He's been publishing on this stuff since long before it was popular. I'm looking at his 1986 "Shi'ism and Social Protest" on my shelf right now, it's a good freaking book, even if it's a little dated now. His scholarly articles on Iraq's Shi'is are increasingly relevant, and most of his predictions about that community have proven correct. He certainly focused on Sistani a lot sooner than frigging Bremer and the CPA did.

I may not agree with a lot of what he has to say in the current context, and his policy recommendations may be flawed, but he's an important voice. You shouldn't have to agree with someone 100% to value their opinion.

Posted by: T-Bone at September 26, 2005 10:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If Cole is indeed "someone who has made his field of study Iraq's Shiites" isn't it rather stunning that he has never been to Iraq at all???

Surely someone who has never been there at all shouldn't be called an expert in such a "as we all know" way

Say he considers himself an expert on Iraq and Arabs in general and note how he has never been to Iraq

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at September 27, 2005 07:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And Pogue, your credentials - those that would cause us to pay even jaundiced attention to what you write here - are what exactly? You've been to Iraq how many times? Speak which Arabic dialects? Did you even obtain your GED from an acredited institution?

Posted by: avedis at September 29, 2005 12:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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