Austin Bay takes a look at the foundation of mistrust of American determination among the populace and points the finger toward a different point in time than al Queda’s examples of America’s previous bail-outs — Iraq in 1991 rather than Beirut, Somalia and Viet Nam [hat tip to Dean].
Iraqis haven’t forgotten the aftermath of Desert Storm. With Saddam’s troops forced to retreat from Kuwait, Shia Arabs throughout southern Iraq rose up against Saddam’s tyranny. Kurds in the north also rebelled. Many Sunnis in Baghdad anticipated the end of Saddam’s “Tikiriti” despotism. Numerous Iraqis tell me post-Desert Storm they anticipated liberation. Instead, they got a dose of so-called Realpolitik — mass murder and a return to dictatorship.
In 1991, Saddam did not fall. His Republican Guards attacked the Shia towns and massacred their inhabitants. At least 50,000 Iraqis were murdered by Saddam’s defeated army.
In the piece, Mr. Bay pauses to look at a little of his own prescience before spilling out our goals and those who oppose us [emphasis added].
In an essay I wrote for the Dec. 9, 2002, issue of The Weekly Standard, I outlined the rough path to that “end state” in Iraq:
“Pity Gen. Tommy Franks or, for that matter, any American military commander tasked with overseeing a post-Saddam Baghdad. For in that amorphous, dicey phase the Pentagon calls ‘war termination’ … U.S. and allied forces liberating Iraq will attempt — more or less simultaneously — to end combat operations, cork public passions, disarm Iraqi battalions, bury the dead, generate electricity, pump potable water, bring law out of embittering lawlessness, empty jails of political prisoners, pack jails with criminals, turn armed partisans into peaceful citizens, re-arm local cops who were once enemy infantry, shoot terrorists, thwart chiselers, carpetbaggers and black-marketeers, fix sewers, feed refugees, patch potholes and get trash trucks rolling, and accomplish all this under the lidless gaze of Peter Jennings and Al-Jazeera.”
In summer 2003, Paul Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority weren’t prepared to handle the situation that marathon sentence describes. However, by mid-2004 the U.S. military had hammered out a sound security and recovery plan. The campaign plan met guidelines promulgated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546. This resolution is no top-secret document — it’s on the U.N. website.
“Phased withdrawal” of coalition forces has always been the goal. The issue is a realistic “when.”
The Iraqi government confronts extraordinary challenges. Are there rotten Iraqi military units? Yes — but there are also some very good ones. Do Iran and Syria support terrorists and militias? Yes. The dictators want the world to conclude that democracy is culturally and politically alien to the Middle East. They want the world to conclude, like British and French imperialists did in 1919, that Arabs can’t handle democracy.
Of course Iran and Syria do not want us to believe that their region can adapt to and embrace democratic means, as a successful Iraqi democracy could greatly weaken the despotic rulers of these two neighboring states. It should be noted that this goes doubly so for Iran, whose younger population is oft reported to be quite restless under the thumbs of their radical mullah rulers.
This has always been the gamble of the Iraqi campaign — can we offer an inviting alternative and change the nature of the society of the region, a nature that has proved a fertile breeding ground for radical expansionist Islamic barbarians? Should the endeavour fail, there really remain only two alternatives: either continue the fight, only subsequent campaigns must be carried out with extreme Second World War-esque harshness, or retreat, pull in the horns and await the enemy again in our own lands.
Yes, it was a gamble from day one and it may still succeed. Do we have the will? I don’t know, but I had hoped for a stronger spine than I’ve seen to date from the West. Can the Iraqis embrace democracy? Given ample time and support, I’d say yes. It’s not a certainty, but I have some justification in believing so.
Mr. Bay then tries to put his prescience to yet another test by anticipating the upcoming recommendations of the currently-mulling Iraq Study Group.
Enter the James Baker and Lee Hamilton-led Iraq Study Group (ISG). It’s my bet that it will produce nothing original in terms of strategic and operational thinking. It may well produce a set of policy recommendations palatable to Democrats and Republicans — in other words, consensus political cover that allows the sober and wise to continue to support Iraq’s war for freedom and modernity.
Here’s hoping that a palatable course of continued effort will prevail, despite the growing calls of scheduled withdrawal from several among the soon-to-be-in-control congressional democrats.