Monday, March 1, 2010

Right Prediction, Wrong Country?

I have been predicting a coup as a possible outcome in Afghanistan, but I may have been thinking about the wrong country.  The combination of nationalism, illegitimate election and corruption may produce one in Iraq.  Tom Ricks has a letter from Col (ret) Gary Anderson, who just spent the past year in Iraq, working for the US Dept of State.  His conclusion:
Barring radical U.S. and foreign disapproval of this electoral travesty, Iraq is on its way to coup, civil war, and one man rule -- and perhaps all three. The only winner in the current Iraqi electoral situation is Iran.
Actually, the most devastating comment and one that was apparently repeated quite frequently in this guy's research was this:
"How does it feel to have fought for seven years so Iran can take over Iraq?"
Lovely.  Chalabi is the gift that keeps on giving:
"he betrayed you once --- and us twice."
The basic idea is that the current government is widely seen as subverting the election and being stooges of Iran.  The hostility against Iran is not just a Sunni thing, but shared widely by the Shia.  This might not affect the election, since nationalist (anti-Iranian) candidates of all stripes are being excluded, but it might mean that a nationalist Army might step in.

So, the US faces potential coups in two countries in which it has a large military presence, and, in both cases, the coup would not be entirely unwelcome.  Perhaps the best outcome in Iraq is to get the numbers low enough so that the US does not seem that visible when the Iraqi coup comes.  And then an Iraqi junta could allow a small residual American presence that might not be possible by an elected government?

When I started teaching Civil-Military Relations a few years ago, the topic of coups d'etat seemed old-fashioned, but events around the world indicate that such events are not obsolete at all.  And the threat is present exactly where the world is paying heaps of attention.

We live in interesting times, indeed.

1 comment:

Chris C. said...

In general, it seems coups are not the terrible affront to governance the media and NGOs often seem to stereotype them as. The most recent coup in Niger, for instance, seems like a good example of the military reacting to increasing authoritarianism on the part of the leader. Of course, there are plenty of pitfalls involved and having a coup is not exactly a sign your country's on the right track, but in general people may want to rethink their knee-jerk acceptance of the status quo when it comes to government changes.