Dafydd of Big Lizards joins the Kill Sadr debate:
Jack Kelly, national-security writer for the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, penned (phosphored?) a column forthrightly titled "We must get rid of al-Sadr." First, I must note that I'm very, very unimpressed by both the writing and thinking of Mr. Kelly. His column is written about at the level of a typical blog (Power Line is far more literate); it's conclusory and dismissive and drips with such sweeping opinion-mongering as "and people wonder why U.S. policy in Iraq is failing," and "it will be embarrassing for President Bush to admit the failure of the Iraqi government."
(Generally, Kelly thinks very little of the Iraq government; I certainly get the sense he thinks we'd all be better off if Iraq were our colony, much as the Congo belonged to France and Belgium.)
What's more, the only source he cites for anything is an anonymous "Army sergeant in a Baghdad intelligence unit," who e-mailed -- not Jack Kelly -- but the WSJ's James Taranto! Presumably, Kelly doesn't even know himself who the sergeant is or how qualified he is to make observations. Mr. Sergeant says just what Kelly longs to hear; to nobody's amazement, Kelly quotes Mr. Sergeant.
Nevertheless, the idea that we should kill Sadr is a good one. But I really wish I didn't have Mr. Kelly on my side, for he makes no particular argument at all how killing Sadr would help anyone -- nor does he consider any consequences other than Bush's "embarassing" admission of putative failure and a glib reference to an "uprising," as if that were of no consequence.
Paul has noticed this lack as well:
I wonder whether bringing down a given milita and/or its leader would make much difference at this point. My understanding is that the Shia militias exist mainly to inflict harm upon, and do battle with, the Sunnis. Given the "demand" for such units, it's questionable whether we can cut off the supply.
So let me fill in the missing argument that Mr. Kelly could not seem to articulate.
First, on the basic level, Paul is correct: killing Sadr would not put the Mahdi Militia out of existence. Actually, I would suggest killing not just Sadr, but the number two and number three guys, all more or less simultaneously (within a few days of each other). This would leave the lower tier people wondering which of them would become the new leader.
Let 'em fight it out.
Second, Paul asserts that there is a fixed "demand" on the part of Shia for killing Sunnis; but I'm not persuaded. Iraq has always been more tribal than sectarian. Many of the biggest tribes include both Sunni and Shiite members; and until Saddam came along and set the two sects at each other's throats (quite deliberately), they knocked together quite decently in Iraq.
I don't think the war between Shia and Sunni has gone on long enough in Iraq to have become the new norm. I don't even think the Shia thought of Saddam's as a "Sunni" dictatorship... more likely as the dictatorship of the Tikriti tribe, which included Shia, Sunni, and even a prominent Christian (Tariq Aziz).
I agree about Kelly, he is entirely too cavalier.
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