Fantasy And Reality In Iraq

Events in Iraq are reaching another turning point as the constitutional referendum approaches. One of the key challenges in Iraq has been getting the Sunni community to accept the legitimacy of the political process. Yesterday, that goal got a major shot in the arm as the largest Sunni political party reached a deal with the Kurds and the Shi’ites. The deal means that the Iraqi parliament has the opportunity to reevaluate the Constitution after the December parliamentary elections. This deal gives the Sunnis incentives to provisionally approve the Constitution in October and vote for more Sunni representatives in the Parliament in December. It’s an important political compromise that will help allay some of the fears of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

The importance of this compromise cannot be understated. The alienation of the Sunni community feeds into the largely-Sunni insurgency which is responsible for much of the anarchy in the Sunni Triangle and al-Anbar Province. The Iraqi people are sick and tired of the constant violence and depravation. They want security, reliable electricity, and opportunity. The insurgency has nothing to offer them but death and continuous strife – and even the Iraqi Sunnis are realizing that the political process is their best shot at keeping their communities safe. Nobody has any interest in having Iraq fall into anarchy. The Sunnis know that the Shi’ites would come after them. The Iraqi Shi’ites are not ethnically or theologically like Iranian Shi’ites and have little love for the Iranians. The Kurds have been the whipping-boys of the Middle East for centuries and don’t want Turkey or another hostile power erasing the many gains they’ve made in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Over a year ago I quoted Samuel Huntington’s work on democratization theory. What is going on in Iraq is part of the process of a state transitioning from absolute autocracy to a representative system of government. Two and a half years ago, Iraq was still under the bootheel of the Hussein regime. Today, they’re a fledgling democracy. The true story of Iraq isn’t what went wrong, but how we managed to achieve what’s been achieved now.

At the same time, we must understand the mind of our enemy. We now know what al-Qaeda’s strategy for Iraq is, and it begins with a US withdrawal. Any withdrawal of US forces would give al-Qaeda the greatest victory it has ever achieved. It is absolutely and completely irresponsible to do such a thing, and any politician advocating that position is advocating us surrendering in the war on terrorism. This is not 2003. The war is done. Saddam is gone. We are now fighting for the independence of Iraq alongside the Iraqi people, and we have the moral and political obligation to finish the job.

The Zawahiri letter makes clear what al-Qaeda’s larger strategy is, but it is also based on al-Qaeda’s fantasy ideology in which they can create a pan-Muslim caliphate under shari’a that will rise up and utterly wipe away the jahiliyya of the West.

As President Bush noted, the goals of al-Qaeda are incompatible with a decent human society. The Zawahiri letter gives us a clearer understanding of how fracture al-Qaeda is after four years of war with the United States. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the #2 man in al-Qaeda is stuck in the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border, he’s begging his subordinates for cash. He’s cut off from operational planning. He apparently didn’t even know of the London attacks. In other words, we’re winning this war.

Al-Qaeda knew from the beginning where our weaknesses were. They knew that if they could play by the General Giap rules, they could convince the American people to spin a victory into a defeat. They’re playing on our fears, our insecurities, and the hateful partisanship of the left.

The problem with al-Qaeda’s fantasy ideology is that it is a shared fantasy – shared by members of the media and the intelligentsia who think that American cannot, nor should it, win this war. What Orwell called the “objectively pro-fascist” left is alive and well. Is there really any doubt that a George Galloway or a Michael Moore wants the Iraqi people to be truly free? There are many on the far left whose hatred of America itself outweighs their desire to see a free Iraq – should they even have any. There are many on what has become the “mainstream” of the left whose hatred and partisanship would rather have Iraq fall than Bush succeed. For many on the left, this isn’t about Sunnis and Shi’ites, Iraqis and Iranians, Jordan or Syria, democracy or autocracy. This is all about who sits in the White House and Congress in the next election.

That kind of shameful shortsightedness is a greater weapon to al-Qaeda than any suicide bomb. It is precisely that which provides them the wedge they need to achieve a victory in Washington they could never hope to achieve in Baghdad.

The political labels of Democrat or Republican are in the larger sense irrelevant. It is about defeat or victory in a war against a totalitarian ideology. The arguments that are flying around about WMDs and who lied about what are completely irrelevant. It no longer matters whether Saddam had WMDs or not. Right now al-Qaeda is in Iraq, and if Iraq falls, we fall with it. Iraq may or may not have been crucial to the war on terrorism in March of 2003. It is no longer doubtable that it is right now.

We can either fight the battles of 2003 or we can win the war we’re fighting now. We can choose whether or not al-Qaeda’s fantasy ideology comes to pass or not – and if our values mean a damn, we dare not allow that to come to pass.

3 thoughts on “Fantasy And Reality In Iraq

  1. You know jay, your agrument makes sense, somewhat. We need to finish the job in Iraq, letting it go and spiral out of control serves nobody other then Bin Ladin. However, my question is why are we messing it up then?

    I know there has been success, but the success are limited to the shia and kurdish regions. The sunni region is little better off then where it was a year ago. While much of this is the fault fo the terrorists, why have we not been able to turn it around.

    It’s not from lack of cash. Congress won’t risk voting down whatever the president needs.

    What do I think it the problem is? A ceasation of soft power. We send out troops and tanks, not repairman and bulldozers. I understand that we can’t until the security situation is in better hands, but part of the problem is that security gets worse as the people’s position gets worse. Yeah they have more power then when saddam was around, but when saddam was around they didn’t have to constantly repair walls or spend a week or two looked in a room waiting for the fire fight to end. Convince the people that its the terrorist fault, not ours, and we begin to drain the important support network the terrorist forces rely on. I don’t see that we are doing it. I see the military focused on elminating the fighters, forgetting that fighters without a support network are inherently easier to defeat.

    my two cents.

  2. That isn’t a bad argument, and I partially agree. Programs like the Commander’s Reserve Fund gave local Army units money that they could use for whatever projects they wanted – building schools, improving roads, etc. All of that money went right into Iraqi infrastructure.

    Our initial efforts were half-assed. (Larry Diamond has a great book on what he saw when he worked for the CPA that is very astute and very damning.) We didn’t have enough Arabic-speakers and too many bureaucrats.

    I don’t think we’re messing things up now. If anything, we’ve learned from our mistakes. We’re doing a much better job of outreach at all levels.

    We are two years into this war, which isn’t a long time. I really didn’t expect the process to move along this fast, which is good in some ways and not so good in others. The end goal, however, has always been the same. We can’t run Iraq. We don’t want to. The Iraqis have to feel like they’re in charge of their destinies – no more [i]maktoob[/i] – and each step in the political process gets us closer. Yes, it’s often two step forwards followed by one and a half back, but that’s the nature of democratization.

  3. Just read an Article from Dr. Victor Hanson thought it might be a good piece on the ongoing war on terror, and Iraq.

    All that is a fair summation of the current glumness.

    But how accurate are such charges? If one were to assess them from the view of the Islamic fundamentalists, they would hardly resemble reality.

    Many of al-Zarqawi or Dr. Zawahiri’s intercepted letters and communiqués reveal paranoid fears that Iraq is indeed becoming lost — but to the terrorists. The enemy speaks of constantly shifting tactics — try beheading contractors; no, turn to slaughtering Shiites; no, butcher teachers and school kids; no, go back to try to blow up American convoys. In contrast, we are consistent in our strategy — go after jihadists, train Iraqi security forces, promote consensual government so Iraq becomes an autonomous republic free to determine its own future. We will leave anytime the elected government of Iraq asks us to; the terrorists won’t cease until they have rammed, Taliban-style, an 8th-century theocracy down the throats of unwilling Iraqis.

    Bin Laden is in theory “loose,” but can’t go anywhere except the wild Afghan-Pakistan border or perhaps the frontiers of Kashmir. His terrorist hierarchy is scattered, and many of his top operatives are either dead or, like him, in hiding. For all the legitimate worry over the triangulation of Pakistan, it is still safer for Americans openly to walk down the streets of Islamabad than for bin Laden. In any case, at least the former try it and the latter does not. How much food and medical supplies will bin Laden airlift in to his fellow Muslims reeling from the earthquake?

    Note how al Qaeda has dropped much of its vaunted boasts to restore the caliphate over the infidel, and now excuses its violence with the plea of victimhood: “After all this, does the prey not have the right, when bound and dragged to its slaughter, to escape? Does it not have the right, while being slaughtered, to lash out with its paw? Does it not have the right, after being slaughtered, to attack its slaughterer with its blood?”

    The war against the terrorists may be entering the fifth year, but despite over 2,000 combat fatalities, we have still only lost a little over 2/3s of those killed on the very first day of the war, almost 50 months ago — quite a contrast with the over 400,000 American dead at the end of World War II. And a wrecked Japan and Germany were not on a secure path to democracy until six years after America entered the war, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan that were defeated without killing millions and already have held plebiscites on new constitutions.

    Westerners, it is true, sensationalize the abuses of Abu Ghraib and perceived grievances of Guantanamo far more than they do the abject slaughtering and beheading by the enemy. Nor do Americans write much about the heroics of their own U.S. Marines in retaking Fallujah or their brave Army battalions in providing security for civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq to vote.

    But our enemies still are not impressed by such a self-critical mentality, and know that a trip to Abu Ghraib does not mean either a Saddam-like torture chamber or an al Qaeda beheading, but rather far better conditions than they ever would extend to others, and often a rest of sorts between attacking Americans. As for Guantanamo, it is humane compared to any jail in the Middle East, and fundamentalists only harp on its perceived brutality since they think such invective resonates with Western opponents of America’s current policy.

    Oil is the weirdest theme of the debate over the war. Opponents claim that we went there to steal or control it. But after we arrived, as in the case of 1991 when we had the entire mega-reserves of Kuwait in our grasp, we turned it back over to the local owners, ensuring that for the first time in decades a transparent Iraqi government — not the French, not the Russians, not the Baathists, not the Saddam kleptocracy — now controls its own petroleum. The more the terrorists talk about Western theft of their national heritage, the more OPEC gouges the industrialized world and sends its billions in petrodollars abroad to foreign banks.

    The story of the war since September 11 is that the United States military has not lost a single battle, has removed two dictatorships, and has birthed democracy in the Middle East. During Katrina, critics suggested troops in Iraq should have been in New Orleans, but that was a political, not a realistic complaint: few charged that there were too many thousands abroad in Germany, Italy, the U.K., Korea, or Japan when they should have been in Louisiana.

    Afghanistan is nearing the status of the Balkans — after nearly four, not eight years of peacekeeping to keep down the remnants of fascism while democracy takes root. And Afghanistan was a war (like Iraq) approved by the U.S. Senate and House — unlike Mr. Clinton’s bombing of Serbia.

    The enemy seems frustrated that it cannot repeat September 11 here in the United States. Hundreds of terrorists have been arrested, and direction from a central al Qaeda leadership has been lost. Killing jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq has, as their communiqués show, put terrorists on the defensive — understandable after losing sympathetic governments like the Taliban.

    We have made plenty of mistakes since September 11, often failed to articulate our goals and values, and turned on each other in perpetual acrimony. Federal spending is out of control, and our present energy policy won’t wean us off Middle Eastern petroleum for years. But still lost in all this conundrum is that the old appeasement of the 1990s is over, the terrorists are losing both tactically and strategically, and, as Tony Blair said of the evolving Western mentality, “The rules of the game are changing.”

    Finally, we need to be systematic in our appraisal of the course of this war, asking not just whether the United States is more popular and better liked, but rather whether Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Egypt are moving in the right or wrong direction. Is Europe more or less attuned to the dangers of radical Islam, and more or less likely to work with the United States? Is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute getting worse or stabilizing? Is our security at home getting better, and do we understand radical Islam more or less perfectly? Are Middle East neutrals like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan more or less helpful in the war against the terrorists? Are global powers like India and Japan more or less inclined to America? And are clear-cut enemies such as Iran and Syria becoming more or less emboldened or facing ostracism?

    If we look at all these questions dispassionately, and tune out the angry rhetoric on the extreme Left and Right, then we can see things are becoming better rather than worse — even as the media and now the public itself believes that a successful strategy is failing

    October 14, 2005
    An American “Debacle”?
    More unjustified negativity on the war in Iraq.
    by Victor Davis Hanson
    National Review Online

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.