Here is a comment bemoaning the release of the Wilders film by someone in an army magazine. The dismissal by Bill Roggio is warranted. Of course there will be some kind of trouble if, and when, the Wilders film is released. Muslims have been attempting to blackmail the Dutch, and the entire Western world, not to have it released, using that same argument. So what? This will always be the case.
The American military man or civilian who wrote that little comment apparently is not thinking straight about Islam. He is thinking only of the way in which Muslims can be so easily whipped up, and assumes they will be whipped up if the Wilders film is released.
But he is missing several points. One is that Muslims can always be whipped up. They don’t need a film or cartoons. They are very good at manufacturing their own reasons for being whipped up. They stage atrocities — see the Al-Dura case, see all the pictures on Al-Jazeera of American “Nazi-like” behavior in Iraq, with that hideous Arab score playing as the camera pans over what are supposed to be victims of “American aggression.” And that could be pictures taken from anywhere, or for that matter made up. It doesn’t matter.
The person who said that the Wilders film should not be released (and could he have been, by the way, a Muslim, or someone who listened a bit too credulously and naively to local Muslims in Afghanistan) manages to overlook all the made-up stories about “American soldiers destroying Qur’ans” that have been broadcast in Afghanistan, and that, though denied and obviously false, have led to the usual predictable and hysterical riots and lunacy.
But what that comment points to is the narrowness of vision of some American military men. In Iraq, Petraeus and company are intent on applying those “laws” about “insurgencies” so beloved of those “military intellectuals” — those Kansas colonels who think it makes sense to come up with such laws as “on average, insurgencies last ten years.” (This is as helpful as the statement that “on average civil wars last 4.7 years” or “on average wars last 11.3 years.”) It ignores the most important things: that there is not one “insurgency” but many different groups competing for power and loot in Iraq, and that while all but one — Al-Qaeda — are willing to use the Americans to their own advantage, all of them, save possibly one (the Kurds) cannot conceivably offer the Americans real, unfeigned, and lasting friendship. And even the Kurds, possibly unduly romanticized, have to be our friends because it is only the Americans who have rescued them in the past, or can offer them the necessary diplomatic and other support to help them establish an independent Kurdish state in the future.
The American military in Iraq, like that in Afghanistan, sees the task it has been assigned and is attempting to fulfill that task. It does not see, the generals do not see, the larger picture. They do not calculate the economic cost to the United States of the effort in Iraq or Afghanistan. They do not ask themselves about the other theatres of war, in the campaign of self-defense against the worldwide Jihad, because most of them do not think in those terms at all. How can they? The very fulfillment of their task, and their day-to-day dealings with the local “good” Muslims, brings them ever further into personal entanglements, a confusion of being impressed with this or that local Arab or Afghani who may indeed appear to offer real friendship, or at least prove helpful. And so beyond that immediate helpfulness, that slogging “side by side” with “our Iraqi allies” or “the brave Afghans,” it is easy to forget about such things as exactly what those “Iraqi allies” are doing, what they are doing it for, how much bribing they need to continue doing what they do (for if the American bribes stop, they stop), and whether, from an American perspective, the whole thing really makes sense, or if, beyond the local “victories,” the real victory to be achieved is best accomplished by coolly, hard-headedly, recognizing what has been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan is pursuit of an ignis fatuus, a will-‘o-the-wisp or feu follet that keeps receding into the distance, the goal of a “stable” and “unified” and Iraq. That Iraq is to be established with American taxpayers’ largesse, signed over by the tens of billions, by an Administration that has no other thoughts as to how to obtain Muslim cooperation, for it does not understand what deep hostility Islam inculcates toward non-Muslims, and is fearful of finding out, of recognizing this immutable truth and basing a policy on awareness of that truth.
Even if, here and there, at enormous American and, in Afghanistan, other NATO cost, there can be local “victories” over Al Qaeda, or over the Taliban, so what? Their ranks are endlessly replenishable. And the local “allies” are not really “allies” at all. The Anbar Province tribes, should they succeed in remaining bribed, still have no intention of doing America’s bidding. They still, as Sunnis, have no intention of acquiescing in the main consequence of the toppling of Saddam Hussein: the transfer of power, now and likely forever, from the Sunnis to the Shi’a of Iraq.
What the American generals must do if they are to avoid confirming that “war is too important to be left to the generals” is to begin to see what used to be called the Big Picture. Petraeus, in Iraq, should be thinking about the malevolent Saudis, and the Money Weapon that pays for mosques and madrasas deep inside the West. The generals in Afghanistan should be thinking about the attempt of Geert Wilders to instruct, and rouse, people in the Netherlands by dint of a mere ten-minute film, instead of worrying about the “effect” on the local Muslims and its relation to them, the NATO troops. If the local Muslims can be so whipped up, and so easily turn on the American and other NATO troops, it is that fact that is telling. That should be understood by the Western military as one more reason why, instead of the squandering of men, money, and matÃ©riel — in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in meretricious and hopeless Pakistan — Western money should be saved, Western soldiers should be spared, and war matÃ©riel reserved not for “nation-building” efforts but for war-making, and emphasis now placed on what should always have been seen, about a trillion dollars ago, as the most intelligent strategy: to recognize, to do nothing to lessen, to exploit, whatever pre-existing fissures exist in the Camp of Islam. In Iraq there are two: the sectarian and the ethnic. In Afghanistan, save for the Shi’a Hazara, the country is riven by rivalry between Tadjiks, Uzbeks, and Pashtuns. Use it, use it to divide, and to keep constantly unsettled, the reemergence of the Taliban, where possible. Do not build roads or schools or do anything that will help the Taliban and local Muslims to emerge from a hardscrabble existence. It is that hardscrabble subsistence farming or raiding that is the surest guarantee that people will be kept so busy staying alive that they won’t have time for Jihad, which is what you do once your minimal needs are taken care of. Don’t take care to help with those minimal needs.
And the spectacle of internecine warfare will emerge elsewhere, not necessarily at a high level. In Iraq, the Shi’a will simply make clear that they have no intention of readmitting Sunnis to Baghdad, and whatever attacks on Shi’a take place after the Americans withdraw, will be met with further attacks on Sunnis in Baghdad. Meanwhile, in the north, the Americans for reasons of realpolitik reasons could be supporting the Kurds, because the more powerful the Kurds, the more likely they will obtain an independent state. The great inhibiting factor is apparently the government of Turkey, which is in the hands of Erdogan. But the Turkish army’s opposition, which does worry, can be overcome, if it can be demonstrated that an independent Kurdistan will have to rely on American support, and the Americans, in turn, will be the guarantors who can withhold arms and diplomatic support, and that Kurdish irredentism will apply with a vengeance to Iran and to Syria, but not in eastern Anatolia. There are ways to make this case, but they require taking a different tack with Turkey, or at least with its military.
Iraq may be a permanent fault line for Sunni-Shi’a clashes. The loss to the “Persian” Shi’a of Baghdad, for four hundred years the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, so central to the history, real or imaginatively reconstructed, that history-haunted Arab Muslims return to again and again, to imagined past glories of culture, munificence, and power (often greatly exaggerated) can never be acquiesced in by those Sunnis. That suggests that an Iraq without the American presence will be a source of permanent tension between Shi’a Iran and its succursales among the Shi’a of who form the majority in Bahrain, 20% of the population in Pakistan, and a plurality of the population in Yemen, not to mention Syria, where the Alawites have been attempting to legitimize themselves as Muslims by use of a Shi’a fatwa, when the Sunni Arabs know perfectly well that the Mary-worshiping syncretistic Alawite despots are not real Muslims, and could, should, would be slaughtered — not an Alawite village would be safe — should the Alawite regime ever fall.
The consequences of an American withdrawal would be to save money and lives, and even to rescue the American officer corps from further shrinkage — all those non-reupping captains, by now 15,000, who cannot be easily replaced, lead to a decline in morale and in quality. And then, the precipitous attack on Iraq, followed by the years of staying stuck to Tarbaby Iraq, with — at the top — every evasion, every distraction, every short-term task of what is ludicrously called “winning” in Iraq, would no longer be possible. Harder heads would reconsider the ideology of the Total System of Islam, reconsider the amazing failure to consider the main instruments of Jihad — the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da’wa and, especially in Western Europe, inexorable demographic conquest, if the Infidels remove almost all of their troops but watch the spectacle of internecine warfare from afar, and remain able to intervene from afar with intelligence (spy satellites, drones) and with weapons, when and if necessary. This would be, essentially, what the Americans did, to a degree, during the Iran-Iraq War. That war should have gone on forever. Sunni-Shia conflicts can go on forever, if only the Americans leave Iraq. Non-Arab Muslims can better be inspired to see Islam for what it is — a vehicle of Arab linguistic, cultural, political and economic imperialism — if they have an example of a non-Arab Muslim people throwing off the Arab yoke. An independent Kurdistan fits the bill.
But as long as those military men, like the one in Afghanistan deploring the Wilders movie — demonstrating his ignorance of or indifference to the need to rouse the people of the Netherlands, where a million Muslims now unsettlingly have settled (in 1970 there were 15,000) — think only of what is right in front of them, and not of the larger war of which Iraq or Afghanistan are very small theatres, the squandering and the waste and the wasted opportunities will continue.