Iraq: Is it a War or a Battle?
By Alan Caruba on (Apr 29, 07)

"For now, however, the longer we remain, the more we feed the resentment of the various Iraqi groups maneuvering for control. It’s a no-win situation. If you’re looking for gratitude, forget it.”


The political theatre being played out in Congress and the White House cannot disguise the fact that our adventure in Iraq has been a succession of blunders and the only question is how and when we shall make our exit?


In his book, “The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace”, Ali A. Allawi, who spent two and a half years as a minister in the transitional governments that followed the invasion, writes, “At the end of the Governing Council’s life, I could see the tell-tale signs of disintegration—both in the incoherence of the American ‘project’ in Iraq, and in the utter mediocrity, incompetence and venality of the new political order.”


The U.S. has been “defeated”, not by al Qaeda or the “insurgents”, but by the ancient tribalism of the Middle East, the vast religious schism between Sunni and Shiite, and by having no insight whatever regarding the role corruption plays in all areas of Middle East governance.


Had we merely removed Saddam and left, we would have spared ourselves a great deal of embarrassment. The man and his Baathist party literally slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqis. His “neighbors” wanted him gone, but most especially Iran.


I began 2007 saying it was time to leave Iraq. Sending more troops to the war zone strikes me as a bad idea. Our military, which has performed valiantly, needs time to rest and prepare for the next challenge. In the broad context of our presence in the Middle East, we have fought a battle in Iraq, not a war.


The perturbations of the Middle East are going to continue for a very long time. We need to bring our forces home, rebuild, retrain and re-equipment them. And, yes, we need to expand our Army to meet the challenges that lay ahead because the Islamists will interpret the withdrawal as weakness. Let us remember we are still the world’s lone superpower.


Declaring, as Sen. Harry Reid did, that the war is “lost” only demonstrates the narrowness of his vision and that of the Democrats he leads. Just as Americans engaged in a long Cold War with the Soviet Union, interspersed with some “hot” conflicts, the war against the Jihadists will last a very long time; at least a generation.


A report in the April 14 edition of Time Magazine spells out conditions affecting our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen that are impermissible. Colin Powell, a former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says, “The active army is about broken.” Last fall, Gen. John Abizaid told a Harvard audience, “This is not an Army that was built to sustain a long war.”


The decision to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq has been a succession of astonishing and serious blunders. In the words of former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want.” We went to war with an army trained and equipped for a short duration of intense conflict.


In three weeks we were in downtown Baghdad. What followed next was mass looting. “Bad things happen,” said Rumsfeld. They have continued to happen ever since.


After Saddam was gone, the Iraqis held elections, hastily wrote a constitution, and then put an interim government in place under U.S. guidance despite our ignorance of the schisms that existed. Much, if not all of this was cosmetic and subject to arbitrary deadlines. The blunders by everyone involved are too numerous to list.


For now, however, the longer we remain, the more we feed the resentment of the various Iraqi groups maneuvering for control. It’s a no-win situation. If you’re looking for gratitude, forget it.


A double-edged sword, 9/11 forced the Muslims of the Middle East to address the issue of terrorism and, at this point, with bombs going off again in Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq, the governments of these and other Muslim nations are committed as always to ending the threat of Islamism.


They have been dealing with Islamists for decades. Egypt has been a hotbed of Islamism in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s, jailing them and executing them, though not fast enough to keep Anwar Sadat from being assassinated. Fifty-nine years after Israel’s independence, the Palestinians still want to kill all of them and all of us.


“Strategically”, the U.S. intervention in Iraq appeared to be a good idea to the neocons. Iraq is bordered by most of the other nations in the region and would have been an ideal platform from which to project power. Now, our dearly acquired new wisdom suggests we do so from somewhere “over the horizon.” Call it a learning curve.


Have we had any success in exporting democracy to Middle Eastern nations over the course of the last century? Actually no. Only Turkey is the exception and that was due to the leadership of Kemal Ataturk after WWI.


Recently, more than 300,000 Turks rallied to support secular government and that is very good news. Pakistanis also rallied to avoid government by mullahs. Call it progress. Even Muslims know that mullahs and ayatollahs have no idea how to run a modern nation.


The last U.S. elections confirmed that a slim majority of Americans have decided it is time to reach for the bug-out bag and boogie on home. Just ask the Israelis how well occupation worked in Lebanon or the Gaza strip? Or perhaps the former Soviets who tried to occupy Afghanistan?


Arabs may not have much to brag about, but they are a proud people, convinced of their moral superiority to the West. They have long memories of Western nations imposing their will on the Middle East and they resent it.


No one wants their nation occupied by a foreign army. So, let’s leave. We will likely return at some point to fight new battles somewhere in the Middle East or the Horn of Africa, but between now and then we can rebuild our military and buy lots of new ordnance.


Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, “Warning Signs”, posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, www.anxietycenter.com His book, “Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy”, is published by Merril Press.


© Alan Caruba, May 2007


By Alan Caruba on Apr 29, 07
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