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The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War,…

The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace

by Ali A. Allawi

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This work is from an Iraqi monarchist's (p. ix) point of view. He makes no apologies for this elitist position and plays upon sympathies for those who buy his point that his life had to change in an instant. A reading of history would reveal this is the end of all monarchies and dictators. In addition, Allawi had the advantage of a Western education but he abandons its academic rigor and he favors those less qualified, idiosyncratic, or the most trenchant anti-Western authors throughout the work.

Allawi bases his understanding of Iraq on an unsound basis. Allawi introduces, and favors the idiosyncratic Ali al-Wardi, who was trained in classical Weberian sociology and yet he abandoned reliable sociological analysis for the inapplicable philosophy of the "Muslim world's greatest philosopher of history Ibn Kaldun" (p. 13). Al-Wardi is the fount that Allawi will consistently draw from, and downplay Western scholarship.

Bernard Lewis is introduced and dismissed out of hand without a serious consideration or discussion of his ideas and its applicability to the Middle East.

The work indicates the wide chasms and divisions of Islamism within Iraqi society; the intervention of the U.S. really had a limited opportunity for success given the primitive nature of Iraqi political development.

Allawi describes an early CIA analysis that introducing operatives in the country was the best case scenario. Nonetheless, Clinton ordered sanctions, bombed the country, and gained approval for the Iraq Liberation Act on 1998 (p. 67). The key question is the nature of a post-Saddam Iraq for which conferences were being conducted from 1997-2000. The point that is easily overlooked here is that Bush continued, `war is politics by other means,' rather than radically altered Clinton's designs for Iraq. The critical issue is that the war went poorly and did not approach a successful result until the surge.

Although Allawi rightly points out the many flaws in the post-war period, there are points of positive development and a few people of note emerged from the rubble. Adnan al-Pachachi is one such figure (p. 72). A secular, liberal democracy, which Pachachi advocated, at least had the possibility of succeeding in Iraq and would have prevented traditional Muslim sectarian, ethnic, and tribal bloodshed from occurring.

Liberal democracy had a chance to succeed in Iraq (pp. 78. 88, 147, 165, 191, 213, 217, 221, 222, 225, 227, 242, 277, 285, 346, and 355). A liberal, democratic statement was issued but no acclaimed by a preponderance of Iraqi voices (p. 84). In 2002, at a London Conference (p. 85) a majority of Iraqis united against Saddam but the remainder of the statement remained vaguely worded which weakened its effect. One of the most unfortunate aspects following Saddam's fall is that Islamic political movements filled the power gap left vacant by Saddam. This proved to be the undoing of a liberal, secular, and democratic Iraq.

There were notable counter measures though. Emad Dhia, an Iraqi-American had founded the Iraqi Forum for Democracy in 1998 which was intended to form a post-Saddam Iraqi administration. The effort unfortunately fizzled out to be only a support service to a new Iraqi government (p. 100). Another attempt was made in 2003 against a traditional Iraqi tendency to fracture unity. A 13 point program was agreed to a disparate body of Iraqis (p. 469 n. 13). At the Nasiriya Conference (p. 101) the divisive religious question was deferred but religious groups were later invited back in (p. 104).

Few Americans nor the United Nations were likely to oppose Iraqi religious groups thus any move toward a liberal, secular democracy would be forestalled with their appearance. In fact, the counter-measures were largely undone then by the dramatic move of naming Paul Bremer to head the Coalition Provisional Authority (p. 105). Once the U.N. was involved (p. 106) any hope of countering the negative religious influence in Iraq would not be sustained. An opportunity arose when Hume Horan, a retired ambassador, advised Bremer, in that he was an Iraqi religious expert and he might have had the insight to reliably advise Bremer against undue Islamic pressure. Allawi dismisses Horan predictably enough and he disparages him as in the "Bernard Lewis" camp (p. 109). Horan though perceptively noted the need for religious "reformation" (p. 109) yet again Allawi describes his thought as "jaundiced reasoning" (p,.109).

An ominous development occurred for the possible, peaceful transition to a liberal democracy with the appearance of the sectarian Islamic force of Ayatollah Muhammed Baqir al-Hakim (p. 111). Al-Hakim's negative influence would result in the politically potent advocate of violence of Ayatollah Muhammed Baqir al-Sadr (p. 111). Particularly as violence escalated in Iraq especially throughout the period of the surge al-Sadr's Badr Brigade proved to be a huge obstacle to the peace process in Iraq. By 2003, in any event, sanctions and traditional Iraqi corruption proved to be all to common in Iraq (p. 123). The strength of Shia street power is evidenced by the perhaps as many as a million marchers drawn out to commemorate Imam Hussein's death in Karbala (p. 138), an event that previously was severely restricted by Baathist, Sunni repression. Moqtada al-Sadr mobilized this street power into a powerful insurgent force.

Yet, there was still a modicum of optimism amid the sectarian religious violence. Bloggers represented the voice of a free press (p.154). Native Iraqi bloggers flourished and an authoritative source emerged in the person of Juan Cole, Professor of Islamic History at the University of Michigan (p. 473, n. 16).

The military could have been viewed as a potential source representing a peaceful but authoritative institution given the fact that most Iraqis respected the military. The army was viewed as a reliable institution despite the disastrous Iraqi decision to declare war on Britain in World War II to support the Nazis (p. 155).

One of Allawi's most important points should not be, yet it is, buried in a footnote (p. 473 n.32). The issue of whether Iraq would be governed by secular or Islamic sharia law is buried and misinterpreted as only applying to "personal status" (p. 473 n.32). Allawi falsely characterizes the critical issue as one of simply drawing a dichotomy between those who favor Islamic law or secularism. However, the issue is far more crucial and important than his presentation suggests. The failure or success of Iraq as a failed or a successful modern state hinges on whether Iraq could move past its authoritarian, religious backwardness or if it could progress to a modern, secular state. Indeed, once Iraq's constitution states that is can be involved in personal status then every law may run counter to personal liberty and freedom religion. In short, everything is personal and laws that cross the personal line is potentially an affront to personal religious freedom. Once Islam is enshrined in Iraqi constitutional law then religious liberty will cease to exist as it has in every other instance of the exaltation of Islamic law. At the risk of becoming too American, the Iraqis unfortunately were choosing one of the primary retardants of the nation-state, secularism and religious liberty. The liberal state in Iraq was doomed at that point (Cf. Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University, Post-Conflict Justice in Iraq: An Appraisal of the Iraq Special Tribunal, Accessed 31 July 2010, http://www.law.case.edu/grotian-moment-blog/documents/Bassiouni_Article_on_IST.p... "Postconflict Justice in Iraq," Accessed 31 July 2010, http://www.abanet.org/irr/hr/winter06/bassiouni.html).

As noted by Noah Feldman, an unelected Muslim cleric stymied the U.S. and declared that procedures to be followed must be democratic (p. 232). The fallacy is that democracy is fair and balanced for all involved. The limitation of democracy is that it often leads to tyranny, in this case, Islamic tyranny in which the people are no better off than any form of oppression. Another distant but possible avenue to improving the lot of Iraqis ended with the bombing and killing of U.N. peacekeepers which led to their withdrawal (p. 171).

The Iraqis failed to integrate even the schisms within Islam as represented by the murder of Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim (p. 173), along with many of his adherents, effectively the inability of Iraqi religious factions to cooperate. No one in Iraq was safe or immune from violence.

In another way, the U.N. might have been able to assist in the transition to a functioning, sovereign state in Iraq (p. 192). Al-Pachachi traveled to the U.S. and he sought Iraqi sovereignty only to find that his liberal, secular vision of Iraq conflicted with the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority). U.N. Resolution 1511 solidified the notion that Iraq's sovereignty depended on a liberal constitution as envisioned by the U.S. (p. 193).

Allawi describes the unpopular and in his opinion unrealistic "Darwinian capitalism" as envisioned by the CPA (p. 198); he appears untroubled by the failure of a major conference at Dubai to find support for Iraq by members of the Gulf States and their lack of support for Iraq's economic re-structuring. The economics conditions favored by those who did not support Iraq's reconstruction favored "high tariff walls, import quotas and rigged markets--just like the private sector in the Gulf countries" (p. 198). You have to wonder why it is that his criticism of CPA capitalism is any worse than the Darwinian pseudo-capitalism favored by the Gulf states. The geographically related Gulf States did not want Iraq or sound capitalist ventures to succeed. The 2003 Madrid Conference assembled to address the economic status of Iraq also proved to be indifferent or hostile to Iraqi economic development (p. 199-200). On the one hand Allawi criticizes the CPA for its capitalism, then he is also critical that international institutions such as the World Bank that made economic suggestions are not included; however, the real failure is on the adjacent Gulf States who did nothing to assist Iraq. These surrounding States are those most directly involved and who really help the Iraqi people if the point was to truly produce a capitalist, democratic Iraq. The actions of the related Gulf States was dreadful but Allawi barely criticizes them, if at all. The U.S., Japan, and Germany ponied up financial aid (p. 200); the U.N., international financial institutions, the Gulf States or Islamic charities did not contribute.

Cf. Professor Feldman, who joined the faculty of HLS in 2007, is a distinguished scholar in the areas of constitutional design, law and religion, and legal history. His most recent book, which examines the history of Sharia law, is titled The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State. His three previous books are Divided by God: America's Church and State Dilemma, What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building, and After Jihad, America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy. His experience before joining the HLS faculty included a role as senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and service as law clerk to Justice David Souter at the U.S. Supreme Court. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1992 with an A.B. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, was a Rhodes Scholar, received a D.Phil from Oxford University in Islamic Thought in 1994, and received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1997.
  gmicksmith | Jul 1, 2010 |
Excellent book, indispenible for any Westerner seeking to understand Iraq. Ali Allawi is an Iraqui who spent much of his life in exile from the Ba'ath regime, and was well-connected to the opposition who were influential once Saddam was overthrown, being a nephew of Ahmed Chalabi and a cousin of Ayed Allawi. He held various positions in post-Saddam Iraq.

All of which prepares one for a biased telling of the story of Iraq, from the viewpoint of a partisan of a particular view. What one gets is a stunningly broad and deep look at all the strands that go into creating the Iraq of today. Allawi discusses the politics, religion, and economy of Iraq, showing the major players and their complex viewpoints, the interaction of all the persons, events, and influences in a remarkably dispassionate and balanced way. Yet he writes with an insider's knowledge and access to people in positions of influence.

Moreover Allawi is competent in discussing the influences that drove the American invasion, and provides an excellent analysis of a theorist the Americans SHOULD have paid attention to , Robert Merton, and his theories of the law of unintended consequences. By the end of the book one is well aware of how difficult and multi-faceted a job is nation building, not something that should be attempted lightly or in ignorance.

Allawi includes brief but important analyses of the views of the other regional powers, including Iran and Saudi Arabia. Their views are complex and multi-layered.

One item was particularly interesting to me. I just read the book _Century of War, Century of Media_ which was particularly horrifying in describing the use of phosphous by US troops in Fallujah. Allawi's book confirms that account on p. 339, "The MNF [multinational force] was accused of using banned chemical weapons such as white phosphorus and incendiary bombs, a charge denied by the State Department but subsequently indirectly confirmed by the Department of Defense."

The book does not end on a hopeful note. The situation in Iraq is dire, with few good solutions. But after reading this book one has a much better idea of how the situation became what it is, which is a necessary condition to finding solution ( )
  reannon | Nov 23, 2007 |
Allawi is at his best in explicating the deep structures of Iraqi society and in examining the relations between the various players in the game of Shia politics in Iraq. He also expresses a deep abiding dismay that the US government and its "cheerleaders" could have waded into this great adventure with such a poor understanding of what was being attempted. Why there was such a poor understanding is, of course, one of the major questions that has to be answered in explaining what has come to pass in the last few years.

While this work is certainly much better than "instant history," one would be welcome to be distrusting of a man who was possibly part of the problem; Allawi having served in a number of post-invasion governments and is the brother of the former prime minister. What gives Allawi some credibility is that he seems to be as unsparing of Iraqi actors as he is of the Bush Administration, and that his epilog is not larded with cheap policy suggestions. Having provided an extended examination of how Iraqi society has come unwound, Allawi's expectation seems to be that the general revolt can't be too far in the future and there is precious little center left to hold matters together. The possible exception would be a federal solution, but that would be asking a lot of Sunni Arabs who still can't accept this turn of events, of Shia Arabs who believe their time in the sun has arrived, and of Kurds who hunger for independence; Allawi's grim assessment would seem to be that there is virtually no one credible left to even pose the question.

Not a book to read if you're looking for cheap hope. ( )
1 vote Shrike58 | May 28, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300110154, Hardcover)

Involved for over thirty years in the politics of Iraq, Ali A. Allawi was a long-time opposition leader against the Baathist regime. In the post-Saddam years he has held important government positions and participated in crucial national decisions and events. In this book, the former Minister of Defense and Finance draws on his unique personal experience, extensive relationships with members of the main political groups and parties in Iraq, and deep understanding of the history and society of his country to answer the baffling questions that persist about its current crises. What really led the United States to invade Iraq, and why have events failed to unfold as planned?
The Occupation of Iraq examines what the United States did and didn’t know at the time of the invasion, the reasons for the confused and contradictory policies that were enacted, and the emergence of the Iraqi political class during the difficult transition process. The book tracks the growth of the insurgency and illuminates the complex relationships among Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. Bringing the discussion forward to the reconfiguration of political forces in 2006, Allawi provides in these pages the clearest view to date of the modern history of Iraq and the invasion that changed its course in unpredicted ways.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:05 -0400)

"Involved for over thirty years in the politics of Iraq, Ali A. Allawi was a long-time opposition leader against the Ba'athist regime. In the post-Saddam years he has held important government positions and participated in crucial national decisions and events. In this book, the former Minister of Defence and Finance draws on his unique personal experience, extensive relationships with members of the main political groups and parties in Iraq, and deep understanding of the history and society of his country to answer the baffling questions that persist about its current crises." "The Occupation of Iraq examines what the USA did and did not know at the time of the invasion, the reasons for the confused and contradictory policies that were enacted, and the emergence of the Iraqi political class during the difficult transition process." "The book tracks the growth of the insurgency and illuminates the complex relationships among Sunni, Shi'a and Kurds."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300110154, 0300136145

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