Stepping Back From The Brink

The Washington Post has an interesting article on the diplomacy that may have averted a civil war in Iraq:

By Saturday morning, the crisis had reached a turning point. After discussions at the White House and with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President Bush called leaders from each faction to give them the final push toward an accommodation, [US Ambassador Zalmay] Khalilzad said.

After the call, the Sunni leaders announced their willingness to rejoin the talks, and later that evening they met with various representatives. At the end of that meeting, just before midnight on Saturday, the Iraqi prime minister, flanked by the leaders of the major political parties, solemnly announced at a news conference that the country would not have a civil war — a moment of “terrific political symbolism,” the Western diplomat said.

The diplomat said that the outside pressure helped but that the Sunni decision to seek an agreement was also made from a cold calculation of what could happen if they fought it out.

“I think these guys don’t just react to pressure,” the diplomat said. “They measure their own interests. And they understood that staying out of the political process put them back to where they were a year ago,” when they had largely boycotted Iraq’s first election and found themselves with almost no political power.

The situation in Iraq remains fragile at best. Sadr’s militia is still around, backed by Iran. The Sunnis still have a long way to go to reduce their alienation from the political process. Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi still intends to spark a Sunni/Shi’ite civil war in Iraq if he at all can.

At the same time, the Sunnis realize that it’s in their best interest to participate in the political process. One of the crucial steps towards democratization is the legitimization of the political process. If the Sunnis believe they have the most to gain by sitting and talking rather than fighting, then the political process will continue.

It’s also interesting to note that while the Kurds would be largely uneffected if the rest of Iraq slaughtered itself, it was Jalal Talabani who was one of the more instrumental figures in pursuing a compromise. The Western media assumes that Iraq simply cannot support a pluralistic form of governments – Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Kurds all hate each other and according to the media, civil war is an absolute inevitability. Ralph Peters, writing from Baghdad, finds that to be not the case:

Most Iraqis want better government, better lives — and democracy. It is contagious, after all. Come on over. Talk to them. Watch them risk their lives every day to work with us or with their government to build their own future.

Oh, the attacks will continue. They’re even predictable, if not always preventable. Driving through Baghdad’s Kerada Peninsula District, my humvee passed long gas lines as people waited to fill their tanks in the wake of the curfew. I commented to the officer giving me a lift that the dense lines of cars and packed gas stations offered great targets to the terrorists. An hour later, one was hit with a car bomb.

The bombing made headlines (and a news photographer just happened to be on the scene). Here in Baghdad, it just made the average Iraqis hate the terrorists even more.

You are being lied to. By elements in the media determined that Iraq must fail. Just give ’em the Bronx cheer.

The left in general doesn’t understand the situation of Iraq and the Iraqi people. Instead, they paint them with the visage of The Other – a representation of what they want them to be. They are opposed to what they see as American “imperalism” so The Other must be too. They see the war as racist, so The Other must view things under the same lens. They believe that George W. Bush is a much worse threat to world peace and stability than Osama bin Laden or Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi so they assume that The Other believes the same.

But the people of Iraq aren’t some nebulous concept of “The Other”. They are people who every day have to live with the threat of a group of people who want to tear their country apart. The average Iraqi isn’t any different than anyone else. They want peace, they want security, they want a better life for their children. The terrorists, criminals, and murderers lashing out in Iraq are not representative of Iraq’s nearly 25 million people. Yet the voice of Iraq is often the voice of terrorism and extremism. It’s as though the media is afraid to let the real voice of the Iraqi people be heard – those who don’t match their view of “The Other” are deemed to be insufficiently “authentic” and less worthy of exposure.

The reality of Iraq and the perception of Iraq seem to be at odds, which isn’t surprising in today’s age of agenda-based journalism. Democratization is almost always dirty and dangerous work. Successful counter-insurgency operations can take years, and Iraq’s progress in the last three years has been symbolic of the difficulties inherent in such an enterprise.

At the same time, Iraq could have fallen into civil war and anarchy. All sides could have walked away from the table and declared armed conflict. Ayatollah Sistani, President Talabani, Ambassador Khalilzad, and even Moqtada al-Sadr could have poured gasoline on the fire rather than trying to quench them. If Iraq truly was intractably condemned to tribalism and strife, we wouldn’t be seeing an ebb to the violence and a return to the negotiating table.

For all the air of inevitability that the left wants to attribute to civil war in Iraq, it hasn’t happened yet, and it hasn’t happened because the people of Iraq have already seen their society devastated by decades of war and oppression. The silent majority in Iraq has seen all too much bloodshed, all too much tyranny, and all too much oppression for one generation to handle. The future belongs to those people building it, not those trying to rip it to shreds.

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