After all the effort, all the expense, all the thousands of men killed and the tens of thousands who are permanently maimed and will require lifetime care; after all the handing out of contracts, and the spending of nearly a hundred billion on “reconstruction” in a country that was hardly constructed to begin with; after all the efforts to pass out, like candy — and candy too was passed out — the billions and billions to local Arabs in Iraq, with billions more spent in Kuwait and other Gulf states (for a great deal of money was sucked from the American teat by many Arabs in the Gulf, all of them delighted to add to their oil revenues with money from apparently limitlessly trusting Americans); after the “counterinsurgency” manuals with their “rules” establishing just how long — on average! — insurgencies last; and after all the deep seriousness with which such rules were taken, and Islam ignored, as incense was apparently burned at Leavenworth and points east to the memory of David Galula; after all this, we come down to what was always predictable, and at JW was predicted.
The removal of Saddam Hussein ended forever the Sunni Arab despotism in Iraq, under which Shi’a had chafed since the beginning of modern Iraq in roughly 1920. The Shi’a Arabs have steadily increased their share of the population, and now constitute at least 65% of the population. The Sunni Arabs now constitute less than 20% of the population. The rest are Kurds, with Turcomans and Christians constituting, at this point, a million or two more.
Once the Sunnis lost power, it was transferred, never to be given up, by the Shi’a. They control the government. They control the entire south, where all the major oilfields, save those in the Kurdish territories, are located. They control the single port of Umm Qasr. They will give none of this up. The Sunni Arabs have always lorded it over the Shi’a (the Shi’a are even stunted in their growth, after decades of malnutrition under Sunni rulers). And just as no Arabs (save for Kanan Makiya) shed a tear or uttered a syllable of protest when Arabs murdered 182,000 Kurds, no Sunni Arabs inside or outside Iraq were disturbed by the mass killings by Saddam Hussein and a Sunni-Arab-officered army, of Shi’a Arabs. For many Sunnis agree that they are merely, as Al-Zarqawi liked to say, “Rafidite dogs.”
It was amazing that Bush did not understand the deep hostility — a hostility that predates the founding of the United States by more than a thousand years — of Sunni to Shi’a. It is more amazing, and even less tolerable, that during the last six years of war, no one in public life has pointed out that the sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shi’a could not forever be held in check, and that furthermore, like the ethnic divisions between Kurd and Arab, such hostility was not necessarily a bad thing, but possibly a good thing, from the viewpoint of Infidels. For anything that causes Sunnis and Shi’a to be even more antagonistic inside Iraq might encourage co-religionists outside Iraq — in Yemen, Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, and eastern Saudi Arabia — to take out their grievances or resentments on those they see as local representatives of, brothers to, the Shi’a, or the Sunnis, who are killing each other inside Iraq.
And the same is true for the Kurdish desire to slough off the Arab yoke that Maliki’s government is attempting, now that the Americans are going, to reimpose. Any Kurdish struggle for greater autonomy or, still better, independence, may be the occasion to raise worldwide Infidel and Muslim consciousnesses about Arab supremacism, and about Islam as a vehicle for Arab supremacism. And given that 80% of the world’s Muslims are Arabs, it would help to divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam if more non-Arab Muslims were to become aware of this. What’s more, beyond the division and demoralization, some — more likely in a place like Iran, with a non-Islamic identity to fall back on or to reconstruct, than in a place like Pakistan, that is Islam all the time — may start to question Islam once they see it, as they should, as that vehicle of Arab imperialism, cultural and linguistic as well as political.
This will happen. The Americans, at great and foolish expense, kept ignoring the reality of these ethnic and sectarian divisions. Everyone seemed to feel as if even to recognize them would be to exhibit a shameful ruthlessness that is simply no longer to be allowed. Churchill would be amazed. But so too would anyone, up until the last decade or two, when the Western world forgot what war — in all of its aspects — is all about. We began to use such phrases as “the international community” and to believe that we had no right to identify, and then to exploit, pre-existing fissures or weaknesses in the enemy camp — especially since the Camp of Islam has never been thought of either as a camp or as a camp of enemies. This we will not permit ourselves to say publicly, or even, in appears, to say behind closed doors.
Nonetheless, Islam encourages aggression. Islam encourages the belief that hostility is permanent, and compromise never to be entered into except feignedly, and temporarily. It’s the winner-take-all attitude, the attitude that there is only Victor and Vanquished. Muslims are taught these attitudes in the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira. True, the enemy in that case are the Infidels. But if you are a Sunni or a Shi’a Arab, you are likely, soon enough, to think of Muslims not of your sect as deserving to be dealt with as Muslims are taught to deal with Infidels, even to think of those different Muslims as Infidels. And the Arab Muslims have never hesitated to be ruthless against non-Arab Muslims who are in the way, or who are insufficiently submissive to them: Kurds, Berbers, and black African Muslims in Darfur all have endured, in different ways, Arab supremacism.
The surge did not work. It could not possibly have worked except to temporarily dampen down violence. So what? As water seeks its own level, so in Islamic societies where Islam has not been constrained by the hand of enlightened despots (as in Turkey, with 80 yearrs of Kemalism, or in Tunisia, with Bourguiba and then Ben Ali), or where an all-powerful security service (as in Syria or Egypt or Saudi Arabia) keeps everyone in check, of course there will be violence. “Diversity” is not, for Arab Muslims, a Good Thing. Apparently, the glad word hasn’t arrived yet from America.
The infuriating thing is that the learning curve has been so horizontal (but without the charms of a “grande horizontale”). Only now, and only because everything has been tried, there is no chance that the Shi’a Arabs will ever give the Sunnis what they demand, and no chance that the Sunni Arabs in Iraq will permanently acquiesce in their new, subordinate status, and no chance either that the Arabs will give the Kurds what they demand. And the Kurds will refuse to return to being bullied by the Arabs.
So we can wait. And we can watch. And we can consider how much might have been left unsquandered, in men, money, materiel, had our leaders exercised better their own responsibilities and spent a month or two learning about Islam, its texts, tenets, its history of conquest, and the divisions within the camp of Islam that exist and can be exploited — sometimes by doing nothing at all, except getting out of the way.