Iraq: The Guaranteed Solution


June 6, 2007: A major problem in Iraq is that there are two, quite different, solutions to the violence problem. Most of the bombings, and violence in general, are the work of Sunni Arab groups, desperate to get back into power, and avoid being brought to justice for atrocities committed during Saddams long reign. The Iraqi solution is the traditional one; punish the entire Sunni Arab community. Since the Kurds and Shia now have far more men under arms than do the Sunni Arabs, this approach would result in a series of battles against Sunni Arab neighborhoods (in large cities) and towns (out in the countryside). These areas would be cut off from the outside world. Food, water and electricity would cut off as well. Surrender or die. Those who surrendered would be disarmed, taken to a border area, and forced out of the country. In some areas, there might be massacres as well. It's an Iraqi tradition that's hard to shake.

The other approach is less popular among most Iraqis, and it is the American one. This involves getting Sunni Arab leaders to tame the terrorists in their midst, and become law-abiding Iraqis. Few Kurds or Shia Arabs feel they can trust the Sunni Arabs, but if they want to keep American troops in the country (which keeps the Iraqi casualty rate down, and unfriendly neighbors out), they have to go along with the current "surge" campaign. This has resulted in two interesting developments. First, many more Sunni Arab leaders are switching sides, coming over to the government, and joining the fight against the Sunni Arab terrorists groups (a mélange of nationalist and religious fanatic organizations, plus al Qaeda and other foreign factions. ) Sunni Arab militias are not much more effective against the terrorists (who are certainly more fanatical, a major military advantage in the Arab world), than the Iraqi security forces. But these new alliances have led to more information about where the terrorists hang out, and this has resulted in the greater use of American smart bombs. So far this year, about 250 have been used. That compares to the 229 dropped for all of 2006. In Afghanistan, where the number of terrorists is much lower, and the tips more numerous, nearly a thousand smart bombs have been used so far this year. Iraqis have also adapted to the use of smart bombs, and civilians are more quick to get out of the way when terrorists invade, and take over, their homes. Thus while the smart bomb use has more than doubled this year, the number of civilian deaths from these weapons is only up about 25 percent (that's about fifty people so far this year). In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the terrorists try to use civilians as human shields. Understandably, the civilians are reluctant to cooperate.

Militarily, U.S. troops are unstoppable. But American military success is not what will bring victory in Iraq, it's the willingness of Iraqis to stop killing each other. Ultimate success is a quiet Iraq and American troops going home. But the Sunni Arabs have had a real hard time living with the idea that they are no longer in power. However, four years of getting hammered by U.S. and, increasingly, Iraqi, troops, has caused a very visible shift in attitudes. But it's difficult to predict if, by September, the vast majority of Sunni Arab communities will have gone over to the government. Some towns and neighborhoods have no local leaders, and can easily be taken over by a few dozen terrorists. These areas face destruction as the U.S. and Iraqi troops work their way through the Sunni Arab communities in and around Baghdad. This makes clear another sad fact; Arabs are not about to take charge of their own lives, and fates, in the same way Westerners do. There's too much fatalism, and belief in "it's Gods Will," rather than taking action, that makes things happen. This makes it difficult for economic growth, democracy and good government to take root, but does allow terrorism and tyranny to flourish. Because of all this, the West, and even the Turks (who ruled the region for centuries) have tried to look the other way, and just ignore this mess. But now that Islamic terrorists are bringing their murderous ways to the West, and it can't be ignored. But just paying attention and getting involved is not a guaranteed solution.




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