The Administration, and the generals who remain true believers in its policy appear to be suggesting to us two entirely opposite things. (There are generals, and many many officers below that level, who have slowly or quickly come to dislike the Iraq venture and to see, in varying degrees, that the "mission" itself is unattainable, and furthermore, makes no sense.) They tell us that if "we leave" (formerly this was phrased as "if we cut and run," but that phrase is becoming a bit embarrassing) then it doth follow as the night the day that "chaos" and "catastrophe" will come upon Iraq, the entire Middle East, nay the entire world. For we will have what one sudden expert on Islam (Gunaratna) obediently calls a "terrorism Disneyland," and other American-government-contracting "experts" chime in with similar views.
And the Administration goes further. It tells us two things. First it tells us all about Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda, you see, is the only problem, or the main problem. An Administration that understood things aright would realize that is silly, that Al Qaeda is only the best known and so far most successful group in conducting sensational acts of terrorism, but there are a hundred or a thousand groups, with more formed every day. (Did you hear, before last week, of "Fatah al-Islam" in Lebanon? Of course you didn't).
The Administration offers up every conceivable argument, plausible or implausible, to explain why we cannot, just cannot, leave Iraq to its own sectarian and ethnic fissures. (Those fissures will use up, it has long been maintained in a series of posts here, the men, money, materiel, morale, and attention of co-religionists on both sides of the sectarian divide. And in the ethnic struggle of Kurds to become independent, those fissures will encourage other non-Arab Muslims, such as the Berbers, to demand autonomy or more).
The latest version is the "test of wills" business that Bernard Lewis offered the Wall Street Journal the other day. He offered up a highly tendentious account of why America has been treated so badly, and Russia so well, by Muslims. Ephraim Karsh publicly dissected his account, as a matter of history, subsequently in this article in "The New York Sun." Lewis then went on to repeat the party-line about Iraq as a "test of wills." That is, if the Americans leave, Al Qaeda and not merely Al Qaeda, but the whole Muslim world, and not merely the whole Muslim world, but the whole wide world, will see it as an American "defeat." But will it? Will it if, at the same time, or shortly thereafter, the American administration announces a series of measures that show a better understanding of the Jihad?
What if, for example, the Administration announces a huge new tax on gasoline, and then on other uses of oil, and deliberately lets it be known that such measures should have been undertaken long ago, but that in the past we had been "not sufficiently understood either the threat of anthropogenic climate change, nor the threat of the worldwide Jihad, the chief weapon of which is the Money Weapon -- some ten trillion dollars since 1973." What a shiver down Saudi spines then. What a salutary bit of marching-order rhetoric.
And what if, at the same time, the Administration were to announce that a few thousand troops, backed by air power from the sea, or from bases, perhaps, in Ethiopia (the place of the Christian kingdom of the mythical Prester John), would now protect the black Africans of Darfur, and the black African Christians and animists of the southern Sudan? It would announce that they would hold this area "until such time as a referendum, under safe conditions, free from the intimidation and murder from the Sudanese government itself, can be held to determine the wishes of the black Africans who are clearly being robbed of their wealth and mass-murdered.” That robbery continues, whether the wealth be that of the oil that lies under the land of the black Africans in the south, or the potential wealth of the land itself if seized from its black African inhabitants so that the Muslim Arabs can push their own steady, ruthless, inexorable attempts to destroy the livelihoods of the non-Muslim, and non-Arab Muslim, populations so wrongly left under their control, long ago, by the British.
And since that "referendum" would necessarily lead to a separation of both parts of the country, Darfur and the south, from Arab Muslim control, and the Arabs will recognize this at once, the shrill cries that go up will show them that the American government will at long last cease its futile and absurd efforts to "win the hearts and minds" of Muslims in Iraq or elsewhere, and is from here on out going to do what it can to divide, demoralize, weaken, push back the Camp of Islam and Jihad.
And there are so many other things -- suggested right here, over the past 3 1/2 years, that could and should be done, including calling a meeting of NATO to discuss the "internal security threat" posed by "the Jihadists, present and potential, in our midst." And then there should be changes in both the immigration and naturalization laws of the entire Western world, to keep out, or to push out, those in whose mental baggage remains undeclared a permanent hostility to the legal and political institutions, and social arrangements, of Infidel nation-states, and of Infidels themselves.
If this is done, if this is seen to be done, how can one believe that the ululations of triumph by Al Qaeda will last more than a month or two? Is it beyond the wit of the American government to regard the withdrawal from Iraq as anything more than a defeat? (Google, for more, the various discussions here about what constitutes "victory," rightly defined as an outcome that will divide and demoralize, and thereby weaken the Camp of Islam, starting with "Victory Lies Shining Before Us".)
But if the Administration keeps telling us that Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda will "win" if we leave. It calls in everyone it can (Gunaratna, Lewis et al.) to do their stuff, to warn as direly as they can, each in his own way, so as to promote the policy that has failed, is failing, will fail. Yet they at the very same time tell us that if we withdraw (and in this the Sunni Arab rulers of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia help to support, even to pay for, the chorus) then the "Shi'a crescent" that threatens "the entire Middle East" (i.e., threatens the Sunni Arabs), will solidify, will enlarge from a crescent to a full and threatening moon consisting of wicked Shi'a taking over from those Infidel-friendly Sunnis who have done so much for us.
But how can this be? How can an American withdrawal be both an absolute triumph for Al Qaeda, the same Al Qaeda in Iraq that has preached fervent hatred of Shi'a Islam, that considers the Shi'a to be "Rafidite dogs" and the worst sort of Infidels, and at the same time have the same Administration warn direly that if we withdraw, why then it will be a triumph for the Shi'a of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
It is true, of course, that both sides wish us out. Why is that? Why do you think that both the hyper-Shi'a of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the hyper-Sunnis of Al Qaeda, mortal enemies each to each, wish us at this point out? Why would that be?
Well, here's why it could be. Each side is utterly convinced that it can inherit what it wants in Iraq. They can't both be right. They may, in fact, both be wrong. But the very idea that the American government should keep 150,000 troops tied down (with morale plummeting, and young officers leaving whenever they can, day by day) in Iraq, and keep the American public misinformed about Islam, is madness. The Administration is ignoring the many ways in which the jihadists are fighting this war: through economic warfare (and here Bin Laden has had a smashing success -- the $880 billion spent so wrongly in Iraq is more than the total cost of all the wars, save World War II, ever fought by the United States) and education/propaganda, education of Infidels (including potential converts) about Islam. By ignoring all this, they are losing an opportunity to fight and win this war the way the Cold War was fought: with propaganda directed at Muslims intended to split or weaken the Camp of Islam and Jihad. In that regard, several lines of attack should be stressed:
1) For non-Muslim Arabs, Islam should be seen, correctly, as a vehicle for Arab imperialism. Berbers, Kurds, black Africans in Darfur should be made to recognize the arrogance of the Arabs who treated with such contumely local non-Arab Muslims in both the Balkans and Afghanistan. All this provides the evidence that Islam is an Arab vehicle, as do the texts and tenets of Islam, and the clear attitudes of Arab Muslims -- which can be seen even during the hajj.
2) For Infidels, Islam should be seen, correctly, as far more than is described in the word "religion." Rather, it should be seen as a Belief-System that includes a politics and a geopolitics, and that is based on a severe and uncompromising division of the world between Believers (to whom all loyalty is owed as fellow members of the umma al-islamiyya) and Infidels (to whom nothing is owed, no matter what kindnesses or help is extended by those Infidels).
3) For Infidels and Muslims alike, the connection must be intelligently made between the political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failures of Islamic societies and peoples, and Islam itself. Islam is a collectivist belief-system in which the Individual has no rights if those rights (freedom of conscience, freedom of speech) are held to harm Islam. Islam is a system which promotes submission to despotic rule and flatly contradicts, in letter and spirit, the moral basis of advanced Western democracies. Islam is a brake on economic development (inshallah-fatalism), Islam is a moral failure (the unequal treatment of non-Muslims and women), Islam is an intellectual failure (the habit of mental submission, necessary for Islam's wellbeing, that also prevents free and skeptical inquiry without which the enterprise of science is lost). All that should be stressed, along with those narrow limits on artistic expression: sculpture, representations of living creatures, and even music is banned under those strictly following, in the Taliban manner, the rules of Haram and Halal.
4) It should be pointed out to the oil-poor Arabs that despite the supposed loyalty of the members of the umma each to each, the rich Arabs, although they are happy to pay for mosques and madrasas and boughten academics and armies of Western hirelings to promote their interests, are remarkably selfish when it comes to actually aiding their fellow Muslims. They prefer to insist that the Infidels do it. And the Infidels have been doing it. While Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Qatar and the U.A.E., with tiny populations, take in billions every day, it is left to the long-suffering Western Infidel taxpayers, pushed around by their own ignorant and clumsy governments (wishing to buy temporary or feigned, or temporary and feigned, "goodwill" from Arabs and Muslims), to keep shelling out money to those petty despots and regimes -- $60 billion in American aid alone to Egypt, $10 billion to Jordan, $28 billion since 2001 alone to Pakistan, and so on. That aid should come, if it comes at all, from Saudi Arabia, from the U.A.E., from Kuwait.
The third great fissure, along with the sectarian and the ethnic ones by now so evident to all but some in the Bush Administration, is economic. And here there may be a certain nervousness about any hint of discussions, even for the purpose of encouraging disarray and resentment in the Camp of Islam, of the maldistribution in order to encourage resentment, by the poor Muslims, of the rich Muslims. One can imagine why children of inherited privilege (Bush), or those who managed to go from their "public service" to corporate careers that gave them gigantic fortunes within a few years (Cheney), in both parties, might shy away from exploitation of such a weapon. But in this war, all weapons need to be employed, and the least of them, right now, the one that does nothing for us, are those boots-on-the-ground in Tarbaby Iraq -- turning quickly into the La Brea Tar Pits, with the ignorant-of-Islam-and-of-Iraq in both the civilian and military leadership becoming permanently stuck, and fossilized, before our very eyes.