[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

The Iraqi Endgame
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] We Americans generally, and the media in particular, have an obsessive desire to assign blame. Every time something goes wrong, we leave no stone unturned in a Herculean effort to determine who was at fault and what precisely they did. The trouble with this approach is that we often do it at the expense of spending time and attention in determining how to repair the problem.

Iraq is a prefect case in point. Day after day we’re still being inundated with reports, articles, books and a never ending stream of pundits’ columns about whose fault it was that prewar intelligence wasn’t precise and perfect. Was it the fault of the CIA? If so, who specifically did it? Was the failure at the White House? Were Bush and Cheney hearing what they wanted to hear, or were they deceiving the American people? Was Secretary of State Powell squeaky clean in all of this, or was he to some extent at fault? And on and on.

Meantime, tens of thousands of American troops are at risk every minute of every day. The constant flow of our dead men and women keeps coming into Dover Air Force Base. I think the time has come to convert a substantial part of the time and effort from finger pointing to debating what we should do now.

We’ve removed one of the world’s most despicable tyrants from power. Personally, I think that’s good for the Iraqi people and the rest of the world. But regardless, we’re now in a quagmire, and we need an endgame. What the hell do we do to exit?

Neither President Bush nor John Kerry are displaying any leadership on the issue. One mouths platitudes in sound bite form. The other says, “let’s involve the Europeans,” which is absurd because hell would freeze over before France and Germany gave us any help.

The endgame debate I’d like to hear might proceed along the lines like this. Let’s forget about democracy for Iraq as we know it in the United States. Iraq will never be like Ohio.

Instead, let’s concentrate on getting stability, even at the price of democracy. That means a strong man to run the country. Someone hopefully less cruel and pernicious than Saddam Hussein.

Here, we may have gotten lucky for once. Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, seems perfect. He’s a Shiite which is critical because sixty percent of the country are Shiia. At the same time, he was once a member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, maybe even one of their thugs. So he has contacts with the Sunni military men. Finally, he also worked with the CIA. And he can be tough and hard nosed.

The ideal scenario is that Allawi and the new Iraqi army, with American assistance, quells the insurgency. Next January, the constitution is adopted. Elections take place. Allawi is elected. We declare victory and go home.

Not very likely. Another scenario is Allawi puts down the insurgents, stabilizes the country, elections are pushed off indefinitely, though promised. Again we declare victory and go home. This one could happen.

One major uncertainty is what will it take to defeat the insurgents. Can Allawi do it, even with American help?

Unfortunately, we didn’t seal Iraq’s borders after the war. So every Islamic terrorist who wanted to strike a blow against the United States, and there are many, drifted across one of the porous borders from Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia. They didn’t have to bring their own arms. The Sunni military, Saddam’s ardent supporters, whom we turned loose, rendering them jobless and embittered rather than employed, had plenty of arms to go around. This combination of foreign Jihadists and Sunni warriors have been waging the insurgency.

Allawi’s strategy is to wean the Sunnis away from the Jihadists. He hopes to bring them under his tent. But what if it doesn’t work?

Then the only other possibility is a massive show of force against the insurgents. This is the strategy the Israelis used against the intifada, and it has radically brought down the number of terrorist attacks. In Iraq, it might work, but it might also turn ordinary Iraqis against Allawi who is already at risk for seeming like an American puppet.

Then there is one other troubling and disquieting possibility that has to be considered. We now have most of our eggs in Allawi’s basket. Unfortunately, this is the Middle East where assassinations of leaders have affected events all too often. A Jordanian king who dared to negotiate with the Israelis. An Israeli Prime Minister who dared to relinquish land to the Palestinians. And there are many others. You can be sure that these insurgents are plotting to assassinate Allawi right now. And what if they succeed? What’s our plan B?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I raise them to indicate this is where our attention should be focused right now. The meaningful debate should be about our exit strategy. That’s what I’d like to hear about from Bush and Kerry. That’s what our congressional committees should be discussing. Let that debate begin while we still have a chance to develop a strategy.