Friday, February 24, 2006

On War, Sectarian Violence, and Iraq's Future

One of the great lapses in world journalism is investigating what happened to the 100,000 criminals let out by Saddam Hussein on the eve of the war. Thus the terrorists have succeeded in making all the daily mayhem of a major city appear to be political violence — even though much of the problem is the theft, rape, and murder committed by criminals who have had a holiday since Saddam freed them.

We are at a standoff of sorts, as we cannot yet stop the fear of the IED, and they cannot halt the progress of democracy. The Americans are unsure whether their own continued massive use of force — GPS bombings or artillery strikes — will be wise in such a sensitive war of hearts and minds, and must be careful to avoid increased casualties that will erode entirely an already attenuated base of public support for remaining in Iraq at all. The terrorists are more frustrated that, so far, they cannot inflict the sort of damage on the Americans that will send them home or stop the political process entirely.

During this sort of waiting game in Iraq, the American military silently is training tens of thousands of Iraqis to do the daily patrols, protect construction projects, and assure the public that security is on the way, while an elected government reminds the people that they are at last in charge.

The IED and suicide bomber answer back that it is a death sentence to join the government, to join the American-sponsored police and army, and to join the rebuilding efforts of Iraq.

Who will win? The Americans I talked to this week in Iraq — in Baghdad, Balad, Kirkuk, and Taji — believe that a government will emerge that is seen as legitimate and will appear as authentic to the people. Soon, ten divisions of Iraqi soldiers, and over 100,000 police, should be able to crush the insurgency, with the help of a public tired of violence and assured that the future of Iraq is their own — not the Husseins’, the Americans’, or the terrorists’. The military has learned enough about the tactics of the enemy that it can lessen casualties, and nevertheless, through the use of Iraqi forces, secure more of the country with far less troops. Like it or not, the American presence in Iraq will not grow, and will probably lessen considerably in 2006, before reaching Korea-like levels and responsibilities in 2007.

The terrorists, whom I did not talk to, but whose bombs I heard, answer back that while they fear the Iraqization of their enemy and the progress of democracy, they can still kill enough Shiites, bomb enough mosques, and stop enough rebuilding to sink the country into sectarian war — or at least something like Lebanon of the 1980s or an Afghanistan under the Taliban.

It is an odd war, because the side that I think is losing garners all the press, whether by blowing up the great golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, or blowing up an American each day. Yet we hear nothing of the other side that is ever so slowly, shrewdly undermining the enemy.

Shi'ite leaders are urging unity in the face of the violence.
top Shiite political figure has joined the top Shiite cleric in Iraq in urging unity and self-restraint among citizens, in hopes of calming sectarian hostilities before they degenerate into a full-blown civil war. Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, today called the bombing of the Al-Askariya "Golden Mosque" in Samarra a strike against all Iraqis. Al-Hakim blamed the mosque bombing on "takfiris," or extremists, who don't represent Islam.
It would be nice to hear similar statements from Sunni leaders as well. Yet, that's been few and far between.

Powerline notes that there is far more cooperation between Shi'a and Sunni leaders than the media is letting on. There have been numerous demonstrations of solidarity, and while al Sadr and his followers were crowing that they attacked Sunni mosques only yesterday, they're now turning out to protect Sunni mosques today.

Also, reports of civil war appear to be greatly exaggerated.
The top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, assured Thursday that the Iraqi security forces could control the situation.

"We're not seeing civil war igniting in Iraq. We're not seeing 77, 80, 100 mosques damaged. We're not seeing death in the streets," Lynch said at a news briefing in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. "We're seeing a competent, capable Iraqi government using their capable Iraqi security force to calm the storm that was inflamed by a horrendous, horrific terrorist attack yesterday."

The next few days could prove to be a crucial test of those forces' capabilities.
Lynch said the U.S. military wasn't stepping up its operational tempo because of the violence: "We don't see a need, based on our read of the battlefield."

While some residents hid in their homes Thursday, fearing mob violence, others grabbed AK-47s and set off to protect their mosques and streets.

Confederate Yankee sees the Golden Dome attack as a massive case of blowback - akin to using dynamite to put out a well fire.

Howie at the Jawa Report has more:
You have to ask yourself was the destruction of this landmark worth the pain it has caused? It’s obvious the little bastard had no thought of the consequences for you should this attack be carried out. Yes it was Shia that burned and destroyed your property. But it is Al-Qaeda and Zarqawi that is to blame for it. Without the actions of Al-Qaeda the Sunni and Shia mosques would still be standing. The WTC would still be standing and the US would not be in Iraq or Afghanistan. Time and time again the Muslim world suffers under the consequences of terrorists. They cannot be trusted or bargained with. Now is the time for all Muslims Shia and especially Sunni to turn against Al-Qaeda and destroy them as a philosophy and an organization. It is obvious Al-Qeada does not serve Islam Al-Qaeda stains Islam with blood. Is not your reputation and your property part of the assets of Islam? They tear down and destroy both and surely both Lucifer and Zarqawi smile at the destruction as Allah weeps for his children.

Looks like the curfew may have worked.

Expose the Left wonders whether the media is hyping a civil war in Iraq. Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom wonders why W.F. Buckley is getting all wobbly if everyone knows that al Qaeda was trying to start a civil war by going after the Golden Dome. If everyone knows this, then if and when such attacks occur, the reaction will be to go after those perpetrating the attacks, not the US We need better media awareness in Iraq to get the message out.

Stephen Green wonders if a civil war isn't such a bad idea, since it might result in Muslims losing their bloodlust. Read it all. I don't agree with all his conclusions, but it is worth reading.

Posted to Basil's Blog, Stop the ACLU, Cao's Blog, [and updated to include the following:] Stuck on Stupid, Third World County, The Real Ugly American, TMH's Bacon Bits, and Rhymes with Right. Also posted to Mudville Gazette.

Gateway Pundit has some additional thoughts on what's going on in Iraq (Hat Tip: The Anchoress).

No comments: