The naivete of American “counterinsurgency experts” is breathtaking. They are apparently deeply impressed with their own abilities at being able to buy the cooperation and goodwill of the “Iraqis.” Yet this is temporary cooperation, and temporary cooperation, both for reasons of self-interest. That goodwill and cooperation proceeds only from the fact that the Sunnis of Iraq do not have the identical goals, or have identical interests with, the Sunnis outside Iraq who have come to join Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. And when the latter began to attack the former, naturally the former were inclined to fight back against the latter.
And in doing so, the local Sunni tribes found a few wannabee Lawrences, flaunting their ability to “understand” the locals, to “work with them,” to sit and sip tea, to listen to their complaints and their demands (for more and more and more weapons, for more and more and more money, as those Sunni sheiks cannot believe their luck). These “experts” know how to be “culturally sensitive” — c’mon boys, let me show you how a real counterinsurgency expert does it! Imagine the admiring looks as Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, speaking that impressive strine, shows them “how to do it” with enormous self-assurance. No one dares to dissent, or to express openly some skepticism about those Basic Laws of Counterinsurgency he and others (General Petraeus, Dr. Conrad Crane et al.) arrived at, and set down, by ignoring Islam, and ignoring the fact that there are many different, mutually hostile Muslim groups warring for power in Iraq. Not a few of those have grown quite adept at using the Americans for their own ends, to derive money and military equipment from them, all the while stringing them along. They even manage to get the Americans to use their troops, risk their men, to fight against the enemies of this or that local Muslim group that pretends, for the moment, to be capable of being won over.
It’s a farce, but for some the farce is never revealed, because there is always the awareness of just how much money and effort and how many lives have been spent. And so the very colossality of the mistake, of the failure to grasp the nature of Islam, and grasp just how the situation in Iraq can be properly used (by doing nothing more, nothing at all, to discourage ethnic and sectarian fighting, and certainly nothing to encourage the belief that the outcome of such internecine warfare is to be deplored or headed off), never becomes clear to them.
The Shi’a are warning the Americans about trusting the Sunnis. And no doubt the Sunnis — not the tribal sheikhs of Anbar, but rather the Sunnis named Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan and assorted Saudi kings and princes and fixers of very variety — have warned darkly of the treachery of those Shi’a, all of them presumably working for the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It’s a farce. Every act of the Iraqi business has been a farce. It was a farce early on, in the way that Saddam Hussein, a Sunni despot in a Sunni despotism thinly disguised with a Ba’athist “secular” facade, was trying to scare the Islamic Republic of Iran with his pretense of successful weapons production, and instead scared the Americans. He scared them so much that they invaded Iraq and deposed him, and the local Shi’a did the rest.
It was a farce when so many confidently foretold that the Iraq venture would be a “cakewalk.” Kenneth Adelman, who makes a fortune traducing Shakespeare, and selling not his poetry, but potted little lessons in lifesmanship and salesmanship and executive-manship to the titans of business who find this all very convincing, very compelling, so predicted. Others predicted that “the liberation of Baghdad would make the liberation of Kabul look like a funeral procession” (Bernard Lewis). Still others predicted that an important site, possibly a square in Baghdad, would be named after Bush by grateful Iraqis (Richard Perle). It was a farce when the clever, plausible, smiling, westernized, altogether charming charmers convinced the naive Wolfowitz (see “Paul Wolfowitz, or, After Such Ignorance, What Forgiveness?“) that they, the Shi’a in exile, knew how the Iraqis would react to an American presence there. Yet these Shi”a in exile had spent decades abroad. They had forgotten how primitive Islam, and those on Islam, can be. They did not realize how limited to Victor/Vanquished their conception of politics would prove to be. For all those exiles, as they lived comfortable lives in London or New York, themselves became versions of Western Man. It is easy to misremember, easy to forget. Yet they were able to convince all kinds of people that after the Americans had deposed Saddam Hussein, the gratitude would be unfeigned and long-lasting. And it made sense — made sense if you were an American applying American logic, and the American understanding of the universe.
It was a farce when the Americans went ahead with incredibly expensive projects that, one should have realized all along, would never be finished, or if finished, would never be used by the Americans. There was, there is, that $595 million dollar American Embassy compound, a colossal waste. There are those giant airbases, that have been built on the assumption that the Americans will be allowed to remain, or should remain, in Iraq for decades to come, when it should be obvious that just as soon as this or that side thinks it has milked the Americans for all the money and weapons it can, it will send them packing. And the very idea that American bases in Iraq, largely Muslim and Arab Iraq, could ever be used against other Muslims, shows that the Americans have forgotten that the only reason they were temporarily allowed to construct and use American-built airbases in Saudi Arabia was to defeat Saddam Hussein, and only because he had invaded Kuwait and directly threatened the Al-Saud, and for no other reason. And there is also the example of Turkey, “staunch ally” and fellow member of Turkey, where there are and have been for many decades American bases, but from which bases Americans were not allowed to attack Iraq, and have been told they will not be allowed to attack Iran — yet here is the American military, building these hugely expensive bases, again, right in the neighborhood, apparently incapable of understanding that no Muslim country is a reliable ally, and no large bases on Muslim-controlled land can nowadays be expected to last for more than the briefest period, when some temporary overlap in local and American interests takes place.
The farce continues now with these “counterinsurgency” principles being put in place by Petraeus et al. They apparently are focused so narrowly on doing their job in Iraq that they cannot see, cannot stop for one minute to see, that the war of self-defense against the Jihad would be far better conducted if American forces got out of Iraq. For it is absurd to think that “Al Qaeda will take over” when Al Qaeda in Iraq consists of a few thousand members, and in any case, even if somehow, magically, all of the local Sunnis were to suddenly forget their own grievances against Al Qaeda for attacking them, that still leaves more than 80% of the population of Iraq that is either Shi’a Arab or Kurd. Neither is likely to take kindly, in any way, to Al Qaeda — which, as hyper-Islamic, stands for Arab supremacism and, furthermore, takes a dim view of the Shi’a as treacherous “Rafidite dogs.”
Does General Petraeus think about what good can be done if Iraq is not held together? What benefits might accrue to the United States if Sunnis and Shi’a outside Iraq found themselves obligated to send money, men, and military equipment to support their co-religionists in Iraq? Does General Petraeus, does Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, does Dr. Conrad Crane, think about how we might have much more to gain from allowing the natural fissures, sectarian and ethnic, within Iraq not only remain, but use up the resources, and the attention, of Muslims outside, and might serve as a permanent source of division and demoralization within the Camp of Islam and Jihad?
Or is all they can see the “great success” about which they are so self-congratulatory in Anbar Province? Yet this is an utterly trivial success in the larger scheme of things, as is Iraq itself as a theatre in what is not a “long war” but rather a war without end. And what’s more, this is not a “war” mainly by military means, as generals and colonels naturally tend to think, especially if they are intently focused on a particular problem in a particular province, and not on the larger picture.
The larger picture tells us that the duty of Jihad is central to Islam, and will not disappear. It will remain as long as the immutable texts of Islam — Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira — continue to command belief. The larger picture tells us that the main weapons of the Jihad are not those explosives and guns possessed by Al Qaeda in Iraq, the weapons that the tribes of Anbar Province may claim require that their own armories be abundantly supplied and replenished by the ever-compliant American officers who have proven to be rough and tough and unfoolable, and have so often been fooled — in a world where deception and treachery come naturally.
A few questions for General Petraeus, Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, and others who are applying the “lessons” derived from “the laws of counterinsurgency” and think it may take “at least a decade” for things to work in Iraq. First, how do you see the “mission” that you are attempting to fulfill, one gathers, by granting every item on the wish-list of Sunni sheikhs? These wishes are for still more billions in “reconstruction” projects, and for still more walking-around money to win friends and influence Sunnis, and especially, for still more of that impressive American weaponry that all of the Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds, Sunni and Shi”a, are dying to get their hands on. And why is it, if the “enemy” is Al Qaeda, because it has done such damage to both Sunnis and to Shi”a, do those Sunnis and those Shi”a need to be bribed with money and more weapons, to get them to fight those who are their mortal enemies? Al Qaeda in Iraq consists of a few thousand admittedly most-determined men, but the Sunnis of Anbar have hundreds of thousands of potential fighters. And the Shi”a, with eighteen million of Iraq’s 27 million, could supply several million fighters if they wished, both trained in uniform, and irregulars fighting for their lives. Why must they be bribed, cajoled, hectored, inveigled, if they are such enemies of Al Qaeda, and such potential friends of the Americans? Why are they so hard to get to fight, and so needy when it comes to money and advanced weaponry that the Iraqis never needed before? Why?
And finally, repeated from above, the same question: what is the “mission” anyway? We keep forgetting, we being the American public. So tell us again. President Bush hasn’t been able to quite connect the dots, to tell us how a unified Iraq, as opposed to an ununified one, and how a strong and prosperous Iraq, as opposed to one riven by sectarian and ethnic strife, even if it merely low-level but certainly unextinguishable strife, will help us. How will it help, for example, limit the threat of islamization in Western Europe, or help render campaigns of Da”wa and the Money Weapon less effective? Tell us in detail how the outcome in Iraq, or at least the outcome toward which you are working, would help in achieving the goal of halting and reversing the advance of Islam, and of reducing the menace to Infidels everywhere? How would the “mission” that you apparently uphold weaken, by dividing and demoralizing, Islam?
If you can’t answer these questions, to your own satisfaction, just imagine how little satisfied we who ask them would be with whatever response you might unconvincingly cobble together.
Now do you see why your even mentioning that it might take a “decade” — of more squandering of men, money (total cost of the Iraq venture to date, including committed future costs, but not macro-economic ones, is $880 billion, or more than the total cost of all the wars, save World War II, ever fought by the United States) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence?
And another question: if what happens in Iraq is absolutely “critical” to the Western world, or to the world of Infidels, if the outcome in Iraq is absolutely “critical” as Bush says, in order to avoid “chaos” and “catastrophe” (whose chaos, and whose catastrophe?) in the Middle East, with the implied endangerment to those all-important oil supplies, then why is it, do you think, that China and Japan and most of Western Europe seems sufficiently unconcerned to have done nothing except, in a few cases, to send some small amounts of aid (Japan) and a few hundred or at most a few thousand troops? And those troops were sent not out of felt necessity but only in order to curry favor with, or pay back past favors from, the United States. The sole exception has been Great Britain, and that is owed to Tony Blair. Neither the head of the army, General Dannatt, nor many of the British army”s most articulate retired officers (see the views of General Sir Michael Rose by googling “Cut And Runner” and “Hero of Baghdad” simultaneously) think it makes any sense, if it ever did, for British troops to remain in Iraq.
And what do you think they are thinking in Beijing at the spectacle of the mighty American army tied down in Tarbaby Iraq? What do you think they think in Beijing, which also buys oil on the world market, just as the United States does, about that war in Iraq which has cost the Americans $880 billion, and cost China”¦ nothing?
Look around the world at the scope, the menace, and instruments of Jihad. Look around the world and see what a fantastic squandering of American resources Iraq has been and is. Look at what damage has been and is being done to the American military, to its readiness, to its equipment, to the quality of its recruits, to the retention rate of many of its best young officers including West Point graduates, and to the attractiveness of the military for potential recruits to the Reserves and the National Guard, many of whom feel used and abused far beyond what anyone had any right to expect of them, and treated with indifference or far worse by the army. What do you think all of this means, and why and how can you continue to be yes-men, in Andrew Bacevich’s telling phrase, for the Pentagon civilians who concocted this thing, and are too embarrassed, given the enormity of the mistake, to begin to own up to it, while no one else among the loyalists of the Administration seems capable of doing so either?
Go ahead. Please answer these questions. We are all waiting. We are not in favor of appeasement. Quite the contrary. Here at this website, and at many others, hundreds of thousands, millions of interested visitors, think an American withdrawal makes sense because it will provide the only “victory” that the Infidels, that is we, can achieve. (See “Victory Stands Shining Before Us” and five hundred similar postings.) We are waiting to hear from a general, or generals, because we have given up on Bush and his loyalists, to tell us exactly why staying in Iraq makes sense.
We kept hoping to find, in the many pronouncements of Bush and Rice and Cheney about Iraq, something that approached common sense, something that hinted at an awareness of the nature and scope of the worldwide problem. But we have never managed to do so.
So we ask you, in the military, now in Iraq, those who talk of “counterinsurgency laws” and about how the “mission” may take another “decade,” to explain exactly, in detail, how a certain result you are working towards will diminish the threat of Jihad, and weaken its main instruments.
It is now June. The “surge” started more than four months ago. The war in Iraq started more than four years ago. It has already cost this country, one has to repeat, more than the total cost of all the wars, save World War II, ever fought by the United States. That money, some $880 billion, might also have been spent, for example, on energy projects of every kind. It might have been spent not only on energy projects, but also on guarding the borders, and on paying for a vast counter-Jihad propaganda effort, not only in the Lands of the Infidels, but in an effort as well to peel off, from the ranks of the army of Islam, Western converts, and also non-Arab Muslims who should be more systematically informed about Islam’s role as a vehicle for Arab imperialism.
Is there no one, if not among the generals, then among the colonels and majors and captains, who does not share this view? Is there no one who does not think that the cleverest thing the United States can do now, the most effective thing, is to withdraw promptly, leaving not a rifle behind, from Iraq? Is there no one who realizes that far from deploring sectarian and ethnic strife in Iraq, the U.S. should do nothing to discourage it, since in any case it cannot be avoided, but can be properly exploited? For our ends. Not theirs.
Perhaps someone who has served in Iraq can comment here. Perhaps it will be someone who has, with his own eyes, witnessed the seemingly remarkable, but in fact predictable, indifference by “Iraqis” to American losses, or even the delight taken in them by our various “friends” in Iraq. Perhaps it will be someone who has witnessed or heard of the many examples of cowardice, of laziness, of even treachery, by members of both the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police, cowardice and laziness and treachery for which American soldiers have had to pay while their leaders prate about the “laws of counterinsurgency” and about the importance of “winning hearts and minds” that cannot, not permanently, and certainly not unfeignedly, be won.
The squandering, in any case, will come to an end in the first few months of 2009. No one can be elected who does not promise to bring the American effort in Iraq to a rapid halt.
What now to be decided is whether that total withdrawal will be undertaken by those who want to return to the appeasement of Islam that the so-called “realists” such as assorted scowcrofts and brzezinskis think is the only possible alternative (and in this they are joined by jimmy-carters galore, not of the “false realism” school but rather that of undisguised and unapologetic appeasement), or will it be made, as one hopes, by those who wish to conduct this war more cleverly, more effectively, and in a much less costly — in every sense — manner?