October 3, 2007

Game over...

I recommend an essay by Bartle Bull in Prospect Magazine: Mission accomplished:

....Since 2004 I have pointed out that al-Sadr, as leader of the country's largest popular movement, has more to win from a functioning electoral politics than from fighting the Americans who guaranteed the polls that liberated his people, or from fighting the Iraqi government of which he is himself the joint largest part.

As we have noted, the real al-Sadr ceasefire began three years ago. But by saying publicly, again, that his men are putting down their guns, al-Sadr is declaring in the most unequivocal way that the violence in Iraq is not in his name.

Iranian-made rockets will continue to kill British and American soldiers. Saudi Wahhabis will continue to blow up marketplaces, employment queues and Shia mosques when they can. Iraqi criminals will continue to bully their neighbourhoods into homogeneities that will give the strongest more leverage, although even this tide is turning in most places where Petraeus's surge has reached. Bodies will continue to pile up in the ditches of Doura and east Baghdad as the country goes through the final spasm of the reckoning that was always going to attend the end of 35 years of brutal Sunni rule.

But in terms of national politics, there is nothing left to fight for. The only Iraqis still fighting for more than local factional advantage and criminal dominance are the irrational actors: the Sunni fundamentalists, who number but a thousand or two men-at-arms, most of them not Iraqi. Like other Wahhabi attacks on Iraq in 1805 and 1925, the current one will end soon enough. As the maturing Iraqi state gets control of its borders, and as Iraq's Sunni neighbours recognise that a Shia Iraq must be dealt with, the flow of foreign fighters and suicide bombers into Iraq from Syria will start to dry up. Even today, for all the bloodshed it causes, the violence hardly affects the bigger picture: suicide bombs go off, dozens of innocents die, the Shias mostly hold back and Iraq's tough life goes on.

In early September, Nouri al-Maliki said, "We may differ with our American friends about tactics… But my message to them is one of appreciation and gratitude. To them I say, you have liberated a people, brought them into the modern world… We used to be decimated and killed like locusts in Saddam's endless wars, and we have now come into the light." Here is an eloquent answer to the question of when American troops will leave Iraq. They will leave Iraq when the Iraqis, through their elected leadership, tell them to. According to a September poll, 47 per cent of Iraqis would prefer the Americans to leave. The surprise is that it's not 100 per cent. Who, after all, would not want his country rid of foreign troops? But if Iraqis had wanted government by opinion poll, they would have written their constitution that way. Instead, they chose, as do most people when given the choice, representative government....

There's a lot in the piece to think about. One thing that should have been clear all along if people would bother to think, is that an insurrection that consists of bombings and small scale violence can only win if the other side is unwilling to accept the pain and keep fighting. In addition, in Iraq, once the Shia had control of the government they could at any time "win" by escalating the violence. As soon as they had tanks and artillery they could simply obliterate any Fallujas or Ramadis if necessary. That's not what anyone wanted, but it was always a possibility.

The insurgency was testing both the Iraqi government and the American government. Neither has flinched, and so the game is basically over. The weakest point was never the Iraqis, because they have not yet been corrupted by prosperity, and still think it normal to fight for what they believe is right.

The weak point has always been the US, and especially the truly insane level of childishness and nihilism that is today's Democrat Party.

Posted by John Weidner at October 3, 2007 7:10 AM
Weblog by John Weidner