If you have a recently vacated stable that needs to be bolted shut, Michael O'Hanlon's new column - in which he explains how to prevent a civil war in Iraq - suggests that he's the man for the job.
Administration officials have been right in recent weeks to argue that there is no large-scale civil war underway in Iraq. As long as the Iraqi political leadership remains generally united in trying to calm the situation, and as long as sectarian violence remains more sporadic than strategic (with no systematic ethnic cleansing, for example), true civil war remains a threat rather than a reality.It's strange that O'Hanlon thinks Iraqi political leadership is "generally united," considering that one of his first recommendations for stopping a civil war is for Iraqis "to form a coalition government."
To be fair, it's not a bad idea. I wonder why no one else has thought of it?
O'Hanlon also notes that most Iraqi security forces are "dominated by one group or another." As you can see, there's very little that he doesn't know about this troubled part of the world.
So how will we know when "true civil war" is looming? O'Hanlon offers a handy checklist. I suggest you print it out, and keep it in your wallet for easy reference:
If civil war begins in Iraq, it will probably consist of increasingly active vigilante justice -- as well as random, pointless acts of violent rage -- by Iraq's powerful militias. They will attack defenseless mosques, homes of important figures from other ethnic and religious groups, and defenseless citizens.Something to watch out for, definitely.
Sarcasm aside, I'd argue that we can do without any more of O'Hanlon's "expert" analysis of the situation in Iraq. He was an arrogant advocate for invasion, a premature triumphalist once the war started, and a trivializer of its tragedies as the situation deteriorated:
As bad as things are now, and as slow as the going currently appears, things are not that bad. And as tragic as deaths and injuries to coalition military personnel, U.N. officials, and top Iraqi leaders have been, the fact also remains that total American losses in Iraq to date -- just over 300 as of this writing -- are still less than in Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-91.O'Hanlon's inaccuracy and poor judgment are irritating enough, God knows. But some of his opinions are simply incoherent. Check out these erratic thoughts on the capture of Saddam:
[I]t is quite likely that taking Saddam out of the picture will have important effects on the ongoing war....In this light, it is hard to understand or defend the comment of presidential candidate Howard Dean Monday that Saddam's capture did not make America safer; even opponents of the war, who have a reasonable case, should recognize that at this point eliminating Saddam from the picture improves our prospects for success in Iraq considerably. Admittedly, Saddam probably did not play a major role in orchestrating attacks on coalition forces. But he may have had some part.I have more respect for the people who simply called Dean a traitor or a lunatic than for O'Hanlon's brand of labyrinthine, faux-rational, "centrist" equivocation.
Like a number of other liberal hawks, O'Hanlon doesn't understand that his current criticism of the war is meaningless. Bush isn't interested in his advice, or his theories. What Bush wanted from him was bootlicking support for the invasion, and O'Hanlon gave it to him in spades. That was the ultimate test of O'Hanlon's morality and geopolitical acumen, and he failed it. That being the case, he'd do himself - and the families of the people his glib warmongering helped to kill - a great service by shutting the fuck up.