Said Thomas P.M. Barnett, on Hugh Hewitt's show. Barnett was on to discuss a post on his blog which suggested that the United States allow the Sunni/Shi'a fighting to accelerate in the hopes of creating a dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Barnett, always well informed and well spoken, said a number of things, but made three essential points:
We're moving in the direction... of recognizing a free Kurdistan. That war(in Kurdistan) is a complete success.
The surge strategy, and I would emphasize the word strategy there ... is what has really turned the tables. There we've been successful in turning the Sunni Sheiks and tribes against al Qaeda in the region... I believe we can count that as a second success.
The third one is the one that I think most people refer to when they talk about the war going badly or the surge failing: and that is, our capacity to stop Sunni on Shi'a violence... and we're nowhere near the two sides being fatigued in their fighting... I don't think the surge is going to be judged effectively in that light.
I think the real key is gonna be: Is Bush gonna bite the bullet and create a peace dialogue in the region on Iraq that gets Saudis and Iranians to the table... it's really shaping up to be a proxy war between the House of Saud and Tehran... I'd rather see the fight sped up a bit and then get them to the peace table.
If we quote "speed up the battle," and that battle involves hundreds of thousands of casualties slaughtered in a genocidal conflict... don't you think that'll bankrupt our credibility in the third world?
We're going to get the same outcome whether it's slow motion, or whether it's fast... I'm more willing to run that risk and accept the consequences of that, then I think other people are, simply because I think it's going to happen anyway, just in a slower fashion.
Is there any chance it wouldn't happen [the violence ends before we leave], I mean, You're giving up, isn't there at least some prospect?
I'm increasingly dissatisfied that we haven't been able to get any sort of regional peace dialogue on Iraq going... we haven't gotten the Saudis to step up whatsoever, and we're still pursuing the WMD charge with Iran, which I believe based on our intelligence is a premature fight to drag into this current issue of Iraq.
If we run out on Iraq, how long will it be until another Arab people or regime trusts us on any pledge we make in the future?
If we can get down to half the number of troops we've got now, reman operationally efficient against al Qaeda in Iraq, and protect Kurdistan... that force can still do everything we need to do, but it would allow the dynamic of a Shi'a/Sunni fighting to either force some sort of regional peace dialogue, or we would suffer some sort of credibility loss... if we pull out completely, that's a different subject.
How many casualties in that Shi'a/Sunni fight are you willing to stand by and see happen? What's the upper most limit a Western liberal democracy can stand back and watch happen?
It's not me, Hugh, who's going to sit back and take that quarter million [deaths], which I think is a good number, it's Bush who's doing that by refusing to engage in some serious dialogue with Iran on the subject, and really twist some arms in Riyadh on the subject.
Interesting perspective, although I don't believe anywhere near as many Iraqis will die in the long term if we stay in Iraq with a large troop presence, compared to the significant draw down Dr. Barnett is proposing.
I also believe it's a huge gamble. If America pulls out of the central fight between Sunni's and Shi'a, and a holocaust ensues... what if the killings do not prompt a dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia? What if U.S. credibility does suffer an even greater blow than it has already?
Barnett responds to his interview with Hugh Hewitt here.