Winning: Who Gets to Define Victory in Iraq?


March 16, 2007: Trying to keep track of who is winning in Iraq is complicated by debates on questions that are not relevant. If you're going to have a war people will die and stuff will be destroyed. That's a consequence of having a war. So the issue is not "we shouldn't have a war because people will die . . . ." but "Is this war necessary." On the other side of the debate are those who argue that "national honor" is at stack or "credibility" - rather than "Is this war necessary."

It's difficult to avoid having the war become politicized. The two major American political parties are always trying to gain more power, and one way to do that is to criticize whatever the other party is doing. This is all cloaked in a sense of moral superiority and absolute horror at the atrocities the other party is committing. This has been the drill for every American war. The real surprise is that neither the media, nor most Americans, acknowledge this rather shabby treatment of what is really happening out there. But that's another story.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Saddam is gone, the Iraqi people have elected their own government, and the Sunni Arab minority, that ran the nation as a dictatorship for so long, refuses to stop fighting. The Sunni Arabs are aided by al Qaeda, and other Islamic conservatives who see infidel (non-Moslem) troops in the Middle East as something worth killing and dying for. This is nothing new. Islamic radicals have been shouting this about this for decades. Their attempts to carry their anger to the West, in the form of terror attacks, reached a crescendo on September 11, 2001. Based on historical experience, these attacks usually recede after the generation carrying them out realizes they are futile, and when the terrorists themselves get a little older, and fewer in number.

The cause of the terrorism is Moslem, especially Arab, frustration at their inability to govern themselves well. Most Arab nations are run by monarchs or dictators (some masquerading as democrats, in the form of presidents who keep getting elected until they die in office.) Many Arabs are unhappy with the corruption and inept administration of their national leaders. But attempts to use terror to overthrow the Arab tyrants fails, because the tyrants know how to build and operate effective police states. Westerners overthrowing one of these tyrannies, as in Iraq, is seen as an insult to Arab pride. The fact that many of these Islamic tyrants harbor Islamic terrorists planning attacks on the West, is largely ignored by most Moslems. Such violence in the West is actually quite popular in Arab counties. People were openly celebrating the September 11, 2001 attacks in Arab countries, something Arabs like to play down in the West.

Any discussion of the above in the United States, or Europe, is considered irrelevant, partisan, wrongheaded, or worse. The troops on the scene see what is really going on, but their views are dismissed by partisan critics of the war. There's no debate over how the war on terror is going, only a shouting match, and attempts to score points with a partisan, and headline hunting, media. Historians will, as usually, have a good time with all this. It happens again and again. It's one of those things you can depend on.


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