Sunday, December 19, 2004

Establishing the Meme

In just about every aspect of life, when things go wrong, blame must be laid at someone's feet. It's the natural order of things. We rarely look at fuckups, personal or institutional, in holistic or systemic terms -- in other words, what caused the problem, instead of who. We're lookin' for someone to take the heat.

There's a science of algorithms to true root cause analysis, and the end result should lead the intrepid researcher attempting to fix blame to the lowest level of causality which is actionable. But in massive clusterfucks such as the entire Iraq debacle, there tends to be a chain of smaller fuckups that compounds the event along the way. In theory, breaking the chain of causality at any point should alter the negative outcome.

Gene Bellinger, co-founder of Outsights and a Knowledge Management guru, writes on the art of root cause analysis:

To find root causes there is one really only one question that's relevant, "What can we learn from this situation?" Research has repeatedly proven that unwanted situations within organizations are about 95% related to process problems and only 5% related to personnel problems. Yet, most organizations spend far more time looking for culprits than causes and because of this misdirected effort seldom really gain the benefit they could gain from understanding the foundation of the unwanted situation.

Bellinger's assumption is that there's an organizational desire (and/or executive mandate) to find true root cause so as to correct the problem and, most importantly, prevent recurrence and end up with a positive result. He should become a consultant for BushCo, or at least Heritage Foundation. Maybe we'd actually be able to get to the bottom of what's really causing the problems in Iraq, especially in the weeks prior to the election. But no. BushCo is already assigning blame, and establishing the meme:

Whatever happens, it's all the fault of the minority Sunni sect.

This meme serves a couple of purposes for Bush:

1. Since Saddam's base of Baathist support was primarily Sunni Muslim, any disruption of the Iraq election process can be tied directly to Saddam in the press (both U.S. and U.S.-supported Iraq media).

2. As long as the blame for "insurgency" is being pinned on the Sunni's (which it is indeed starting to be), al-Sistani's and al-Sadr's entourages are happy campers. They get the red carpet into the front door of the New Iraq™ government, and the Sunni's are left pissed off and pissed on.

Bush and Allawi seem to be rolling the dice with this strategy. But are they, really? It's a no-lose situation for both of them:

NAJAF, Iraq - Car bombs tore through a Najaf funeral procession and Karbala's main bus station Sunday, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 120 in the two Shiite holy cities. In Baghdad, gunmen launched a bold ambush, executing three election officials, in their campaign to disrupt next month's parliamentary ballot.

The deadly strikes highlighted the apparent ability of the insurgents to launch attacks almost at will, despite confident assessments by U.S. military commanders that they had regained the initiative after last month's campaign against militants in Fallujah.

In the Baghdad attack, dozens of guerrillas — unmasked and apparently unafraid to show their faces — ran rampant over Haifa Street, a main downtown thoroughfare. They dragged the three election workers from a car, lay them on the street in the middle of morning traffic and shot them point-blank...

...The insurgency is believed to include many Sunnis who have lost prestige and privilege since Saddam Hussein's fall.

If things explode beyond all control (I'd opine that armed, unmasked "guerrillas" executing election workers on the main drag in Baghdad would qualify), they begin to have a target for an Iraqi scorched earth policy - the nuclear option of excluding election participation in the Sunni triangle.

So, it becomes necessary now to put a Sunni face on the insurgency, and hope to hell that once (if) elections are held, it doesn't come back to bite them on the ass. Which means it's almost a certainty to occur. All the more important for the Bush (and Allawi) administrations to be establishing the "Sunni = bad, Shiite = good" meme right now.

One of our valued readers commented downthread that you can't call it a civil war when they're shooting at us. I think events of the past few months kind of highlight that it's no longer about us - we're just the facilitators for a Shia' hammerlock on the new government when it's finally formed. And the Sunni's will be more pissed than they are now. Sounds like we have a backdoor civil war in progress now, with the frontdoor to be acknowledged as soon as the "election" is over (quotes on purpose for obvious reasons).

The bottom line is that, true to form, BushCo must continue to have a boogieman to pin the blame on, rather than get down to the real causes of the ongoing and totally unanticipated problems in post-invasion Iraq. Because looking at the real causes would expose the charade for what it is - an ill planned, poorly executed, back-of-a-napkin war with no end in sight.

Only one good thing comes out of this whole debacle. In the end, an academic root cause analysis is probably unnecessary, because the U.S. is going to be too tied up in Iraq for the next 10 years to even bother about thinking of lessons learned to apply to the next imperial adventure.